TYLER Wilkerson was just a time bomb waiting to explode for San Miguel Beer.
Although blessed with great talent, the 27-year-old import has been notorious for having an attitude, one that ultimately led to a parting of ways with the Beermen that was anything but cordial.
Despite hearing a lot about the import, team manager Gee Abanilla said the franchise gambled in Wilkerson, confident that everything will fall into place especially once the victories start piling up.
“With due diligence, we spoke to agents in Korea, China, and USA, and lahat naman positive (ang feedback). Pero siyempre meron din konting negative,” said the San Miguel official.
Besides, the team took the word of people who repeatedly said, ‘He (Tyler) will kill here in the Philippines.’
The 6-foot-7 import bamboozled the opposition right from the eliminations, where the Beermen emerged as the No. 1 ranked team going to the playoffs.
But along the way, cracks were beginning to show.
There were stories of how Wilkerson refused to follow instructions during games, of how he chose teammates to play with, and of numerous clashes with SMB coach Leo Austria.
First signs that everything was about to blow up came during the Beermen’s quarterfinal playoff with eight seeds Star Hotshots.
Wilkerson was held to just 22 points on 0 of 8 shooting from three-point range as Star stunned San Miguel, 103-99, to forge a do-or-die game for a semis berth. The native of Lexington, Kentucky redeemed himself the next game by firing 46 points in 48 minutes, plus 17 rebounds as the Beermen advance behind a 103-99 win.
But the boiling point finally came in the next round as San Miguel lost twice in a row to Rain or Shine in their best-of-five semis series, including the 98-96 Game Two setback, which prompted Wilkerson to throw a tantrum inside the dugout after the match.
A lot has been said on what transpired afterwards. But for Austria, it represented the last straw in what had been a volatile partnership right from the start.
“Kung ako ok lang, tinitiis ko na lahat ng ginagawa niya sa akin because I want to win,” Austria admitted moments after San Miguel averted outright elimination following a 104-98 win in Game Three despite playing with an all-Filipino crew.
“I want to sacrifice for the team. But the last time he did something that’s not really good,” he added.
The mild-mannered mentor said Wilkerson had repeatedly apologized to the team, and he understands where the import was coming from, being someone who hates losing.
But please, not to the point of abusing his good-nature personality.
“Minsan ina-underestimate nila ako. Medyo sobrang bait ko raw,” said Austria. “Kasalanan ba ang maging mabait?”
Old-hand AZ Reid is set to fly in from the U.S. to take over the spot left by Wilkerson, who left the country Friday.
It’s still unlikely if Filipino basketball fans have seen the last of Tyler Wilkerson. What is certain though, is the temperamental import has left an unfinished business here.