PUERTO PRINCESA - The Asi Taulava-Jimmy Alapag reunion show. Jimmy’s farewell game. Speed versus size. North against South.
The sub-plots are aplenty as an impresive collection of PBA superstars gather once again for the traditional All-Star game at the Puerto Princesa City Coliseum here.
Taulava, the ageless center of NLEX, makes his 13th All-Star appearance - the most by any player in Asia’s pioneering pro league – and renews his court partnership with the 5-foot-7 Alapag for one last time when they lead the South All-Stars opposite the North.
Game time is at 4 p.m.
The 6-foot-10 Fil-Tongan, who just turned 42 last Monday, played for eight seasons with Alapag at Talk `N Text in a partnership that produced the franchise’s first-ever PBA championship in 2003.
This year’s All-Star game is expected to be an emotional one for Alapag, who will be playing for one final time in a distinguished 12-year career, all spent with the Tropang Texters.
A special retirement ceremony has been scheduled during the game to retire Alapag’s popular No. 3 jersey.
Alapag was the 2011 league Most Valuable Player and stood as the hero in Gilas Pilipinas’ silver-medal finish during the 2013 Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship in Manila.
The centerpiece event of the All-Star festivities marks the 11th time the league is adopting the North versus South format, and the first since 2011 when North prevailed over South, 133-129, in the island paradise of Boracay.
North All-Star coach Leo Austria said he expects his players led by the starting five of Marc Pingris, Japeth Aguilar, Justin Melton, Calvin Abueva, and late entry LA Tenorio to go all-out in entertaining the fans while playing their best against the South.
“I believe itong mga players ko, kahit during the pres con, nagka-kantiyawan sila, pero deep inside, may pride yan eh, kasi naririnig ko nga sa players ko na kailangan natin manalo,” said Austria, who is coaching in the All-Star game for the first time.
“I don’t want to force them to play hard just like the PBA games because this is an All-Star game. Pero they have to be as serious sa gagawin nila, not to the point na makakasakit sila ng kapwa players,” he added.
Tenorio was a late inclusion after taking the place of the injured Mark Caguioa.
Other members of the North team include Arwind Santos, Gabe Norwood, Beau Belga, Paul Lee, Jayson Castro, Ranidel de Ocampo, and Terrence Romeo.
On the other hand, Compton is toying with the idea of reversing the roles of his big frontline starters composed of Taulava and Greg Slaughter.
“Maybe we’re gonna put those guys (Taulava and Slaughter) in the three-point line, while post Jimmy and kicking it out to Greg or Asi on the three. We’ll call it the ‘reverse Ramos’ play,” a smiling Compton said, referring to KIA’s hulking import Peter John Ramos.
San Miguel top slotman June Mar Fajardo, voted to start for the South, won’t be able to make it due to a severely sprained left ankle. His spot will be taken instead by Joe Devance, who has been elevated from reserve to starter.
Also suiting up for the South All-Stars are Cyrus Baguio, Reynel Hugnatan, James Yap, Mark Barroca, PJ Simon, Stanley Pringle, and Jeff Chan.