A last-minute change in government requirements enabled Dominique Sutton to play as Phoenix's import in the PBA Governors Cup on Sunday.
Coach Topex Robinson said the relaxing of the working visa requirement from the import’s point of origin led to Sutton’s early departure from the US and enabled him to suit up for the Fuel Masters’ game against TNT Tropang Giga.
In effect, the arrival of the 35-year-old import returnee also meant the Fuel Masters no longer needed to utilize San Beda center Donald Tankoua for at least a game pending the coming of Sutton in Manila.
“Buzzer beater, e. The good thing kasi ngayon, nung Feb. 10, ni-lift na nila with regards yung sa visa. So ang bilis na ngayon. Pupunta na lang siya dito and they’ll just work on the visa here,” explained Robinson.
“Kasi ang naging problema before ang tagal kumuha ng visa doon (U.S.). Three weeks yata (bago makakuha ng visa).”
Paul Harris leaves for home
Sutton took over the injured Paul Harris, whose recovery from a hamstring injury had been delayed. He has been ruled out from at least the Fuel Masters’ next three games upon the resumption of the tournament.
Even then, there is no guarantee that Harris would be 100 percent fit.
“So we have to make a quick decision on Dominique,” said Robinson of the former Air21 and NorthPort import.
Harris already left the country last Saturday.
For a while, the team tinkered with the idea of tapping Tankoua to play for a few games while waiting for the approval of Sutton’s working visa.
The Cameroonian, who was part of the Red Lions’ three straight NCAA men’s championship from 2016-2018, had already been practicing with Phoenix for the past six weeks when the sudden change in requirements came.
Coinciding with the change was the lifting of quarantine requirements on foreign arrivals, as long as they are fully vaccinated and returned a negative RT-PCR test two days prior to departure.
“So kahit paano it panned out better for us,” said Robinson.
Sutton obviously has not yet fully engrained himself in the Fuel Masters’ system after practicing with the team for just two days, but did good enough to help them score a 92-92 come-from-behind win.
He finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and two assists in Phoenix’s second straight win for a 4-2 record.
Robinson expects Sutton to blend well with the rest of the Fuel Masters as the conference goes on.
As for Tankoua, he remains very much with Phoenix, according to the coach.
“He’s a standby import pa rin, kasi dito naman siya e. So he’s still going to practice with us kasi wala pa namang NCAA,” said Robinson. “So he’s going to be our resident import, our extra big guy in practice.”
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