San Miguel Beer team manager Gee Abanilla officially announced that the Beermen are playing without high-scoring import Tyler Wilkerson when they clash in their do-or-die Game 3 against Rain or Shine on Thursday at the Philsports Arena.
“The coaches, with the support of management, decided to play All-Filipino today (Thursday) and eventually end our working relationship with our import Tyler Wilkerson,” Abanilla said in a prepared statement he read, just one and a half hours before the game.
“We appreciate him (Wilkerson) bringing us this far in the conference, but in the end, it’s not really about winning and losing games per se. We want to instill in ourselves values, like constant handwork, discipline on and off the court and respect for others, be it coaches, players and more importantly, to the people who signed our paychecks.”
Abanilla, who coached the team briefly in 2014, admitted that the Beermen’s mid-season conference campaign was a “roller-coaster ride” in a lot of ways because of the regular temper problem displayed by the former Marshall University standout.
The 49-year-old Abanilla said in order to avoid creating disharmony within the San Miguel camp, they felt it was best to just let Wilkerson go even if it would mean playing without an import.
“Whenever he’s upset, he tends to do or say things. But he’s a nice person, it’s just that his temper gets the better out of him,” he said. “So ganun ang nangyayari sa kanya.”
Abanilla added that as a professional team, they would want to do things the right way and promote positive values among the players.
“Basta if you don’t give due respect to the people who sign your check, that’s a problem,” he said.
“It’s difficult for me to see you wear a San Miguel jersey, though maski sa ibang teams naman iyan eh, and again, kapag import, binibigyan natin ng leeway, pero di naman puwedeng ganun lagi because it destroys the team, and it’s not gonna be healthy,” stressed the San Miguel team executive.
The 6-8 Wilkerson, the leading Best Import candidate this conference, averaged 34.0 points, 15.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks during the Beermen’s first 2 games in the semifinals.
San Miguel though lost both games — 98-94 in Game 1, before dropping Game 2, 98-96.
On Tuesday, Wilkerson walked out just moments after San Miguel fell to a 0-2 hole against Rain or Shine, apparently disappointed with how the Beermen played in the 2nd half.
Witnesses even heard the sweet-shooting San Miguel import shout, “Take me back to America. I don’t wanna come back anymore,” just before leaving the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Should the Beermen win tonight, there’s still no word on who will replace Wilkerson, who has yet to leave the country.
“Of course meron (plan to get an import) kasi baka ma-fine tayo nun eh (if they play without an import),pero di ko pa alam,” Abanilla said.
There are unconfirmed reports reaching FOX Sports that veteran import AZ Reid will reinforce the Beermen in case the series gets extended. – By Richard Dy
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