LEON Rodgers finally gets the chance to live up to the pre-tournament billing when he makes his debut for Barangay Ginebra in a match against Barako Bull and recent hire Joshua Dollard in the PBA Commissioner's Cup on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Rodgers has easily attracted the most attention among the imports who have come over for the mid-season conference, thanks to his impressive credentials as well as his explosive scoring in two pre-tournament tune-up games he has played for the Gin Kings.
Although he is the shortest import in the tournament at 6 feet 5 inches, Rodgers holds solid credentials after coming off a stint with the Jilin Northeast Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association where he averaged 29.1 points on an impressive 54.2 percent shooting prior to flying over to Manila.
The small forward from Northern Illinois also left an indelible mark in China by scoring 66 points behind a CBA-record 15 three-point conversions with the Tigers five years ago. Before that, won three straight MVP awards in the Dutch League from 2005.
Ginebra’s high-flying forward Japeth Aguilar was among those who this early has been impressed with the import, saying he believes Rodgers is perfect fit for a team hoping to bounce back from a painful Game Seven loss to San Mig in the Philippine Cup semifinals.
"Si Leon, kung ano bibigay mo sa kanya, iyun gagawin niya, mag-aadjust siya," Aguilar said of the 33-year-old Rodgers.
In Rodgers, the 6-foot-9 Aguilar said the Gin Kings will have another reliable scoring threat.
"Iyung open shots, he (Rodgers) won't let those open opportunites go to waste saka iyung percentage niya mataas," noted Aguilar, who is expected to play in the opener although he has been dealing with plantar fasciitis.
Barako Bull coach Bong Ramos said the team hopes to hit the ground running, knowing that the short elimination round which will have teams playing a total of nine games leaves ballclubs with just a small room for error.
"Hindi ka puwede mag-relax eh. Kailangan naming makapag-invest agad," said Ramos, who picked Dollard as a last-minute replacement for original choice Wayne Chism.
Dollard, though, is not expected to be a pushover, having also acquited himself well in tune-up games for the Energy.
"All the games are important. But we'll go one game at a time, though the first game is very, very important," said Ramos.