Feb 19, 2021

Free agent list yields two valuable assets for Alaska

ALASKA went on a spree in the PBA free agent list and found two valuable assets it believes would be a big help for the team this coming season.

The Aces enlisted big men Gab Banal and Yousef Taha one after the other in a bid to boost its frontcourt that will continue to miss veteran Sonny Thoss and the injured Kevin Racal.

Coach Jeff Cariaso disclosed the Aces had been eyeing the 6-foot-8 Taha for quite some time now since being relegated by the TNT Tropang Giga to the unrestricted free agent list after the 2019 season.

"Yousef Taha is a guy the coaching staff has been targeting for a while now. It's awesome that now he's officially with us," said the Alaska mentor.

"We are equally excited to have him and Gab on board."

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The 6-foot-3 Banal, described by Cariaso as a two-way player, was originally drafted by San Miguel in 2014, but never had a significant career as a pro early on that also saw him play limited minutes with NorthPort in 2017 also as a free agent.

But he managed to thrive outside of the PBA, making a name in his stint in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL), D-League, and Chooks 3x3 Pilipinas.

The son of former Alaska coach Joel Banal was named MPBL MVP playing for the Bacoor Strikers during last year's Rajah Cup, while bagging the Finals MVP of the D-League Foundation Cup following Go For Gold's title run.

Taha meanwhile, tried out for a slot with Alaska where he has been joining the team's individual workouts the past few weeks.

He was finally re-signed to a one-year deal a season removed since last playing for the Tropang Giga two years ago.

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The 32-year-old Filipino-Palestinian, a product of Mapua like Banal, will be joining his seventh team in the pro league after previous stints with Air21, NorthPort, San Miguel, Barangay Ginebra, Magnolia,and TNT.

He won a championship with the Hotshots during the 2014 Governors' Cup and was part of the Tropang Giga side, reinforced by former NBA player Terrence Jones, that finished runner-up to the San Miguel Beermen in the 2019 Commissioner's Cup. (RG)