THE NCAA Final Four begins on Sunday at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis with Gonzaga, Baylor, Houston, and UCLA eyeing the biggest prize of college basketball in the United States. The four schools collide in a knockout semifinals to determine the protagonists of the championship game, the culmination of the Division I basketball tournament championships that is more commonly known around the world as ‘March Madness.’
Over the years, a good number of PBA imports previously saw action in the annual event during their college careers. Of course, an NCAA March Madness story won’t be complete without a mention of Rain or Shine local player Gabe Norwood, who was part of the George Mason University team seeded No. 11 that went all the way to the Final Four.
For this piece, however, we put together 20 facts about former PBA imports, some of which from the four schools in the current Final Four, who played in the NCAA Tournament.
1. Michael Young is one of the former PBA Best Import winners who are products of the current Final Four teams. A winner of the award in the 1986 Open Conference for Manila Beer, Young played for Houston where he teamed up with the Phi Slama Jamma led by Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. The Cougars placed runner-up to North Carolina State in 1983 and Georgetown in 1984.
2. Another member of that Cougars team was Benny Anders, who played for Tanduay in 1986. In the 1983 final, a near steal by Anders nearly forced overtime for Houston, but that led to North Carolina State scoring on a buzzer-beating dunk by Lorenzo Charles to pull off an improbable 54-52 win.
3. In that 1983 campaign by Houston, the Cougars faced a Memphis team that had Bobby Parks, who scored 17 points in a 70-63 loss in the Midwest Regional. Parks went on to play in the PBA with Shell with the Best Import title named after him after winning the award seven times.Parks’ school actually made waves in the first round of that 1983 campaign with Memphis beating Georgetown, 66-57. Parks had nine points and four rebounds in the contest to beat the Patrick Ewing-led Hoyas, who the previous year placed runner-up to Michael Jordan’s North Carolina.
4. Another Memphis product who played in the PBA was Rob Dozier, who played in the 2008 national finals against Kansas. Playing alongside Derrick Rose, the former Alaska and Phoenix import had 11 points and 10 rebounds but in a losing case as the Tigers fell to the Jayhawks, 75-68.
5. The Jayhawks were one of the casualties of Duke during their two national titles in the early 1990s. One of the members of that Blue Devils squad was former Red Bull import Antonio Lang, one of a handful of PBA imports who won an NCAA championship. Lang played alongside the likes of Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, and Bobby Hurley, and won the NCAA crown in 1991 and 1992.
6. Former San Miguel import Charles Rhodes played in the NCAA tournament in 2008 while playing for Mississippi State. Rhodes exploded for 34 points in the Bulldogs’ first round win over Oregon, but his team fell to Memphis, 77-74, despite a 14-point, 10-rebound effort.
7. Another ex-San Miguel reinforcement who played in the March Madness was Terquin Mott, whose Coppin State, as a No. 15 seed, stunned No. 2 South Carolina, 78-65. Mott had 11 points and 11 rebounds in that match but his school was unable to extend its Cinderella run after bowing to Texas.
8. Richie Frahm, meanwhile, is one of the products of Gonzaga. The former Talk ‘N Text import was part of the Cinderella runs of the Bulldogs in the late 1990s, scoring 34 points in the team’s upset over No. 7 Minnesota, 75-63.
9. Ira Brown also played for Gonzaga although in limited minutes. He played in four games in the NCAA Tournament from 2008 to 2009 before signing up for San Miguel and eventually becoming a naturalized player of Japan.
10. Justin Brownlee was in a losing end of Gonzaga’s run in the March Madness specifically in 2011 when playing for St. John. Seeded No. 6 in the tournament, the Red Storm lost to the Bulldogs, 86-71, despite the 14-point effort of the Barangay Ginebra import.
11, A former Barangay Ginebra import in Cedric Bozeman is a member of the UCLA team that finished second to Florida in 2006. The Bruins had the likes for Jordan Farmar and Aaron Afflalo but the Gators of Joachim Noah and Al Horford were just too much in their 73-57 loss. Bozeman had nine points for UCLA in the loss.
12. Former Alaska import Cory Jefferson starred in Baylor’s 2014 NCAA March Madness campaign with the former Alaska import scoring 14 points in the second round victory over No. 3 Creighton, 85-55.
13. Ex-Great Taste reinforcement Michael Holton was part of the UCLA team that finished second place against Louisville in the 1980 NCAA tournament. He scored four points in the championship game.
14. Devin Davis saw action in the 1995 NCAA tournament with the former Alaska import tallying 24 points and 15 rebounds in No. 12 Miami-Ohio’s 71-62 win over Damon Stoudamire-led No. 5 Arizona, 71-62.
15. Sta. Lucia reinforcement Ansu Sesay was part of one of the most famous games in the NCAA Tournament. The Ole Miss product had 11 points against No. 13 Valparaiso in a 70-69 loss in a game that saw Bryce Drew hitting a desperate three-pointer which became known as ‘The Shot’ in the NCAA annals.
16. Terrence Jones of TNT appeared in 11 NCAA Tournament games including the 2012 final when he scored 12 points in Kentucky’s 67-59 win over Kansas. One of Jones’ teammates of that championship game was then-freshman and Most Outstanding Player Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Doron Lamb.
17. Wayne Chism also had 11 games in the NCAA Tournament while playing for Tennessee. The former Rain or Shine, NLEX, and Magnolia import’s finest performance in the March Madness was a 22-point outing against Ohio State in the Elite Eight in 2010.
18. Henry Walker, who played for Alaska, NLEX, and Blackwater, suited up for Kansas State in the NCAA Tournament including a 22-point performance in an 80-67 upset over USC in the first round of the 2008 tournament.
19. The final game of Marqus Blakely as a college player was in the NCAA Tournament as a member of a Vermont squad that was pitted against No. 1 Syracuse in 2010. The 16th ranked team lost, 79-56, but the PBA grand slam import had 17 points, nine rebounds, and four steals in the contest.
20. Before playing for the 1989 San Miguel team that won a grand slam, Keith Smart captured the NCAA national title for Indiana in 1987. He registered 21 points for the Bobby Knight-coached Hoosiers including the game-winning shot in their 74-73 win, with Smart winning the Most Outstanding Player for his exploits. Smart, however, only played for five games with the Beermen and was replaced by Ennis Whatley.
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