It has been a competitive series in the 2023 Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Governors’ Cup Finals between TNT Tropang Giga and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel. Before TNT’s hard-fought Game 4 victory to tie the series up two games apiece on Sunday, individual awards were handed out for best players of the tournament.
Ginebra’s big man Christian Standhardinger was awarded with the Davco-Best Player of the Conference after topping all voting with 1,110 points, becoming just the fourth player in PBA history to the BPC award with two different teams after winning the same award with NorthPoint Batang Pier in 2019. He joins Magnolia Hotshots’ forward Calvin Abueva, Ginebra great Eric Menk and former TNT and Aces’ guard Willie Miller in achieving this feat.
The 6-foot-8 German was born in Munich to a Filipino mother and a German father, growing up in Germany. He turned pro in 2006, playing for Ehingen Urspring in the 2. Basketball Bundesliga in Germany for three seasons. Standhardinger then travelled across the Atlantic to the United States in college, playing for the University of Nebraska before transferring to the University of Hawaii. After going undrafted in the NBA in 2014, he went back to Europe, signing a contract with Mitteldeutscher BC in the Basketball Bundesliga (BBL) where he was named to the BBL All-Star Game in his first season. He transferred to SC Rasta Vechta the following season and won his first MVP award.
In 2017, Standhardinger moved to Asia and signed with Hong Kong Eastern of the ASEAN Basketball League as their Heritage Import. After a season with the team, Standhardinger took his talents to the PBA, and was selected first overall by San Miguel Beermen in the 2017 PBA Draft, making him the oldest player drafted first overall at the age of 28.
Standhardinger missed his first season with the Beermen to play out his contract with Hong Kong Eastern. After he rejoined the Beermen in 2018, he averaged 16.1 points and 9.3 rebounds in 27 games with SMB, helping the team win the 2019 Philippine Cup and the 2019 PBA Commissioner’s Cup. Standhardinger also made the PBA All-Rookie Team in 2018. However, he was traded to NorthPoint Batang Pier in October 2019.
In 2021, Standhardinger was on the trading block again, transferring to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel. He began to thrive with his new team, winning the 2021 PBA Governors’ Cup. This year is the year when he really shined, as Standhardinger was named the PBA Finals’ Most Valuable Player in the 2022-23 PBA Commissioner’s Cup, helping the Gin Kings beat the Bay Area Dragons in seven games to take home the coveted trophy. He would later make his first-ever PBA All-Star Game appearance.
In this tournament, Standhardinger has been a nightmare to guard, averaging 22.1 points and 10 rebounds in 17 games including the playoffs. He will look to continue his dominance to win his fifth PBA title.
Meanwhile, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson takes home the 2023 coins.ph-Bobby Parks PBA Best Import award. Hollis-Jefferson edges out Ginebra’s Justin Brownlee by 161 points, becoming just the fifth import in TNT franchise history to take home the honors.
Hollis-Jefferson has had a different road to the PBA. He grew up in Chester, Pennsylvania, USA, becoming one of the best small forwards in his class in high school. He was named McDonald’s All-American in 2013, became a five-star recruit, and eventually chose to attend the University of Arizona. He spent two seasons with the Arizona Wildcats, leading the school to two consecutive Elite Eight appearances in the NCAA Tournament. The forward declared for the NBA draft in 2015, and was picked 23rd overall by the Portland Trail Blazers, who was subsequently traded to the Brooklyn Nets on Draft Day.
In his six-year career in the NBA, Hollis-Jefferson played for the likes of Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors and Portland Trail Blazers, appearing in the playoffs in three of his six seasons. In 305 career NBA games, the veteran forward averaged 9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists.
Hollis-Jefferson then took his talents to Turkey in 2021, playing for Beşiktaş before moving to Puerto Rico to play for Atléticos de San Germán the following year.
In February 2023, Hollis-Jefferson signed with TNT Tropang Giga to replace Jalen Hudson as the team’s import player for the 2023 PBA Governors’ Cup. He quickly meshed with the team in the Elimination Round, averaging 31 points and 12 rebounds in five games to lead TNT to the best record going into the playoffs. His dominance continued in the postseason, averaging 30 points and 13.6 boards in nine games. Hollis-Jefferson is looking for his first championship in his professional career.
With the series becoming a best-of-three as the two teams are tied with two games apiece, it will be bloody fight to the finish to see which team finishes on top. Will it be Standhardinger leading Ginebra to win their fifth PBA Governors’ Cup in the last six seasons, or will Hollis-Jefferson be the answer to stop Ginebra’s supremacy and give TNT their first-ever win in the Governors’ Cup?