AFTER 'hibernating' for the past years, NLEX forward Nino Canaleta is making a grand comeback in a bid to reclaim the Slam Dunk crown from a host of young high-flyers during the PBA All-Star Weekend on March 6 in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.
The 34-year-old Canaleta is regarded as one of the most exciting slam-dunk artists in the league of all time, winning a league-record fifth Slam Dunk championship in 2012 before deciding to skip the much-awaited side event the last two years.
Canaleta, who has also metamorphosed into a deadly three-point shooter, looks fit and ready to go back to his high-wire act as he tries to snatch the championship from the reigning Slam Dunk co-champions Justin Melton of Purefoods Star and Meralco’s Rey Guevarra.
Aside from Melton and Guevarra, also expected to give Canaleta a run for his money are Barangay Ginebra’s Chris Ellis, the 2013 champion, and Japeth Aguilar, Alaska’s Calvin Abueva, Barako Bull’s JC Intal and Talk ‘N Text rookie Matt Ganuelas Rosser.
Meanwhile, Meralco veteran wingman Mark Macapagal will be gunning for a record fifth crown in the Three-Point Shootout in this year’s All-Star festivities, which will also feature a Rookies vs Sophomores match as well as the centerpiece North vs South All-Star Game on March 8.
Macapagal regained the crown in 2014 after dethroning previous champion Chris Tiu of Rain or Shine.
The 35-year-old streak shooter out of San Sebastian will be challenged by Tiu, Ginebra’s LA Tenorio, Canaleta, KIA rookie LA Revilla, Blackwater freshman guard Brian Heruela, Alaska’s Dondon Hontiveros, GlobalPort sophomore gunner Terrence Romeo, Purefoods Star’s James Yap as well as Talk ‘N Text’s Jimmy Alapag, who is making a special appearance in the Three-Point contest.
On the other hand, Barroca will be shooting for his second straight Obstacle Challenge championship, but standing in his way is four-time champion Jonas Villanueva of NLEX.
Other participants are Rain or Shine's Gabe Norwood, Talk ‘N Text’s Jayson Castro, Barako Bull’s RR Garcia, Ginebra’s LA Tenorio, San Miguel Beer’s Arwind Santos and Jerick Fortuna, Meralco’s Simon Atkins, and rookies LA Revilla of KIA, Stanley Pringle of GlobalPort, Alaska’s Chris Banchero and Brian Heruela of Blackwater.
Meantime, the pro league is also bringing back the Rookies versus Sophomores novelty after a three-year absence.
Pringle and Talk ‘N Text’s Kevin Alas, the top two picks in last year’s draft class, leads the Rookies squad which will also have KIA playing coach Manny Pacquiao.
Other members of the Rookies team are Banchero, Ganuelas, San Miguel Beer’s Ronald Pascual, Barako Bull’s Jake Pascual, GlobalPort forward Anthony Semerad and Heruela.
The Sophomores team will be led by the high-flying Melton, NLEX’s Eric Camson, Rain or Shine’s Raymond Almazan, San Miguel’s Jerick Fortuna, Blackwater’s Alex Nuyles, Romeo, Garcia and Revilla.