HALFWAY through the eliminations of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, Michael Dunigan is making a very strong case for the Best Import award.
The 23-year-old American once again validated the claim by coming through with a solid game embellished by 22 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists, and three steals in leading Air21 to an 87-72 rout of Globalport on Saturday night in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
While his name has repeatedly cropped up as the leading contender for the award given to the top performing import at the end of the conference, Dunigan swears he never gives the individual title a serious thought even after outclassing reigning Best Import Denzel Bowles of San Mig in their recent showdown which the Express won, 87-82.
“I’ve been told (about being the Best Import candidate). Anytime I’m put on that list, it’s a great feeling,” said Dunigan. “But I’m just trying to play basketball. Now I’m learning to play (in the team system) and do what I can to help the team.”
The 6-foot-9 University of Oregon product is averaging 26.3 points, 16.4 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 2.1 assists in 43.4 minutes of play in 10 games with the Express.
Air21 coach Franz Pumaren praises Dunigan for taking the leadership cudgels especially when the Express went on a five-game slide after opening the conference with a 74-70 win over Barangay Ginebra.
The Express are now on a four-game winning streak as they evened their record to 5-5 following that 15-point blowout of the Batang Pier.
While he may be among the younger ones in the team, Dunigan said he’s always been vocal to his teammates even during bad times, trying to fire up the locals, and challenging them to give their best every game.
Dunigan feels the Express are starting to play together and work towards one common goal.
“Once I start to slip, somebody else starts picking up and feed off the energy. It’s just a great feeling. But all these (games) are a learning experience for us, trying to find out what makes us who we are, and what we can bring to the table every night,” he added.