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Johnson paces Best Import battle

Arwind Santos of Burger King leads everyone in the Best Player of the Conference race in the ongoing 2009 Motolite PBA Fiesta Conference.
The star forward and member of Powerade Team Pilipinas that is currently campaigning in the SEABA Championship in Medan, Indonesia averaged 33.5 statistical points (SPs) per game to emerge as the No. 1 candidate after the wildcard phase of the league’s season-ending tournament.

Santos, who lost a tightly-fought contest to Kelly Williams for the Rookie of the Year in 2007 and again for the MVP trophy last season, is also the league’s leading scorer among the locals with 18.3 points a game while averaging 7.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists per outing.

Coca-Cola's Asi Taulava is running second with his 31.7 SPs per game but the Tigers’ inability to make the playoffs could ruin his chances.

San Miguel Beer's Dondon Hontiveros (28.7 SP) is at third spot followed by Purefoods' Kerby Raymundo (28.5 SP) and Barangay Ginebra's Jayjay Helterbrand (28.0 SP).

Occupying sixth to 10th spots are Talk ‘N Text's Jimmy Alapag (29.9 SP), San Miguel Beer's Jonas Villanueva (29.1 SP), Purefoods' James Yap (26.9 SP), BK's Gary David (26.4 SP) and Rain or Shine rookie Gabe Norwood (26.0 SP).

Only the top five contenders after the semifinal round will remain in contention for the BPC trophy which will also be decided through balloting among the players and members of the media regularly covering the games.

Santos has consistently contended for every individual honor since joining the PBA two years ago but has also always come up short. Hopefully, not this time though, if he had his way.

As it is, Burger King’s scheduled knockout quarterfinal game against Sta. Lucia Realty on June 14 could make or break Santos’ bid.

Meanwhile, Sta. Lucia's Anthony Johnson is comfortably ahead of the field in for Best Import honors.

Johnson’s 53.0 SPs a game puts him way ahead of second-running Rashad Bell (48.0 SP) whose Talk ‘N Text team failed to make it past the eliminations.

For leading San Miguel Beer to an outright semis entry, Gabe Freeman could have been the top contender for the award until the team opted to place him on the reserved list because of injury. The question is whether SMB will reactivate him in the semifinals.

For the record, Johnson and BK's Shawn Daniels are the only imports who have been with their teams from the start of the tourney up to present.

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