RAIN or Shine is bringing in one more import to bolster its campaign as the country’s representative to the coming 42nd Jones Cup.

Head coach Yeng Guiao told the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday the Elasto Painters are tapping 6-foot-10 Nick Evans to team up with naturalized player Ange Kouame in reinforcing the squad for the August 12-20 meet in Taipeh.

Admitting the team is lacking in size, the presence of both Kouame, who is also 6-foot-10, and Evans would definitely come in handy for the Elasto Painters, according to Guiao.

“Nung nakita namin yung lineup ng teams and yung makakalaban namin doon, malakas yung competition. So management decided to bring in another import. We will have Ange Kouame and itong si Nick Evans, who’s coming in siguro by Saturday or Sunday to join us,” said the former Gilas Pilipinas coach as he graced the public sports program at the conference hall of the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex.

Evans, a veteran big man who had stints in Japan, Colombia, Thailand, and Lebanon, will start practicing with Rain or Shine on Monday before the team leaves for Taiwan on Friday (Aug. 11).

“Cramming na naman yan. Ilang raw lang na ensayo, tapos sasabak na tayo sa Jones Cup,” added Guiao, the former congressman and vice-governor of Pampanga, who is in his third Jones Cup stint.

A total of nine teams are seeing action in this year’s Jones Cup, which is making a comeback after a three-year absence following the outbreak of the pandemic.

Guaio mentioned that national teams of Iran, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Taipeh (Teams A and B) are competing alongside the Japan U-20 team, a US team represented by the University of California-Irvine, and reigning KBL (Korean Basketball League) and EASL (East Asia Super League) champion Anyang KGC bannered by former NBA player Omari Spellman.

“Tignan natin, baka makapag-compete tayo. (But) we’ll represent the country the best way we can,” Guiao said in the session presented by San Miguel Corporation, Philippine Sports Commission, MILO, Philippine Olympic Committee, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

Represented by Mighty Sports, the Philippines won two of the last four editions of the annual meet prior to the pandemic, including its last staging in 2019 behind a team backstopped by imports Eugene Phelps, Renaldo Balkman, and McKenzie Moore, along with Fil-Ams Jeremiah Gray, Jason Brickman, and Roosevelt Adams.

“Ang mahirap dito may pressure nga dahil yung previous team (natin) before the pandemic pa, nag-champion. Kaya lang nakita naman natin lima yata yung import nila,” said Guiao. “So yung sa atin talagang organic lang, organic team ito. So malaking difference yung may five imports and an organic team like ours.”

Guiao also took the opportunity to thank Rain or Shine co-team owners Raymund Yu and Terry Que for not hesitating to take the offer made by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) through the PBA for the team to take part in the Jones Cup.

“Nagpapasalamat tayo kina Boss Terry and Boss Raymund dahil kahit kelan hindi nagkait ng players or talent ang mga yan pagdating sa pagpapahiram sa national team, hindi nagda-dalawang isip ang mga yan,” said the Rain or Shine mentor, recalling the same gesture the two PBA owners did when he also coached the Gilas Pilipinas team in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.

The entire Rain or Shine team, including veteran Gabe Norwood who cut short his US vacation, will be going to the Jones Cup where the Elasto Painters will play eight games in nine days. (ai/mnm)