PUERTO PRINCESA - Participants in the three side events of the 2015 PBA All-Star festivities have twice as many reasons to try and go for the win.
Prizes in the three-point shootout, obstacle challenge, and the slam dunk contests have been doubled by the organizing NickelAsia just hours before the Skills Challenge got underway at the Puerto Princesa City Coliseum.
Each event now offers a total cash prize of P60,000 after an additional P30,000 was added to the pot by NickelAsia senior vice president for strategy and marketing Dennis Zamora.
“Our big bosses at NickelAsia, the mother company of Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation and CoralBay Nickel Corporation, have decided to further sweeten the pot,” said JB Baylon, vice president for corporate affairs of NickelAsia.
The additional prize money readily stirred up players competing in all three side events.
Purefoods point guard Mark Barroca, seeing action in the Obstacle Challenge, kidded that he skipped his late afternoon nap just to be able to practice for his event.
“Wala na munang pahinga-pahinga. As soon as na-announce ni Boss JB yung dagdag na prize, nag-weights ako agad. Mas ginanahan ang players,” Barroca said laughing.
Along with Barroca, others seeing action in the Obstacle Challenge are former champion Jonas Villanueva, rookie Stanley Pringle, Paul Lee, RR Garcia, Jeric Fortuna, LA Revilla, Chris Banchero, and Simon Atkins.
“Sabi ko sa mga kalaban ko kanina nung nag-lunch kami, huwag na nilang tignan yung prize, akin na 'yun,” Barroca added. “Sumagot sila, hati-hati na lang daw.”
Former five-time slam dunk champion KG Canaleta likewise joked regretting begging off from the competition owing to a knee injury.
“Sayang nga eh. Ang laki ng premyo. Hindi ko naman masa-sacrifice yung tuhod ko sa premyo. Pero sayang, next time na lang kung kaya pa. Sana magdagdag ulit sila,” Canaleta said before bursting into laughter.
Canaleta however, still has a shot at taking home the sweetened prize money as he is competing in the Three-Point shootout.
Baylon, the former league vice chairman and governor of Powerade, said management of NickelAsia is very happy with the fan support being generated by the All-Star extravaganza as gleaned from the warm welcome given to the PBA delegation as soon as it arrived here starting last Wednesday.
“Let’s say we’re just happy and contented,” said Baylon, reiterating again that tickets to the Skills Challenge, the Rookies versus Sophomore game, and the centerpiece event North versus South on Sunday will all be given away for free.
“We just want to give back to the basketball fans and the people here in Palawan,” he said.
Barako Bull rookie forward Jake Pascual made an effort to ask league officials at the last minute to include him in the slam dunk contest, but to no avail.
“(Laughed) Sabi ko kay boss Willie (Marcial), sali na rin ako. Marunong din akong mag dunk. Kaso sarado na eh,” he said.
“Pati nga mga teammates ko sa Barako, inaasar ako, kasi never pa naman daw nila ako nakita mag dunk,” added the former San Beda Red Lions star.
Injured Rain or Shine guard Chris Tiu also made it in time for the Three-Point shootout, arriving here on Friday morning.
Tiu, who broke his nose bridge after an accidental clash with teammate TY Tang in practice, will test his shooting skills against five-time champion Mark Macapagal, Intal, Arwind Santos, Canaleta, LA Tenorio and rookies, Brian Heruela, LA Revilla, Banchero, and Terrence Romeo.
Former three-point kings Jimmy Alapag and James Yap will also take part in the event which serves as primer to the Rookies versus Sophomore game.
Intal has previously won P25,000 for topping the mining and environment quiz during his visit to Rio Tuba on Wednesday morning, where Santos, Yap, Marc Pingris, Asi Taulava, and rookie Kevin Louie Alas were also part of the delegation.