Michael Holyfield immediately made his presence felt for Hong Kong Eastern right from the opening tip against San Miguel Alab Pilipinas on Wednesday night.
In Hong Kong’s very first possession, the 6-foot-11, 255-pound center corralled two offensive rebounds and warded off the entire Alab five to get the putback. It was a stunning display of size and rebounding prowess that set the tone for the home squad.
“I was just taught to keep it up,” said Holyfield, who came in to replace the sidelined O’Darien Bassett. “(Renaldo) Balkman tried to tip it. I just kept it high and then I scored.”
Holyfield was a huge difference-maker in Hong Kong’s 88-83 victory to snap the Philippines’ seven-game winning streak. He ended up with 19 points and 20 rebounds as fellow big man Sam Deguara also had eye-popping numbers with 18 points and 31 rebounds.
“They’re the number one team. They get it, they go, they run, they push in transition, they’re tough, they rebound. So it was fun for me,” shared Holyfield on facing the defending champions in his first ABL game.
According to Hong Kong head coach Edu Torres, Holyfield was initially brought in to provide an extra body in practice since local center Cheuk Pan Wu was injured.
“He is a player that we’ve been chasing,” revealed Torres. “So he was here, then the injury on Bassett came out so the best solution was to bring Holyfield.”
Hong Kong has played around with different combinations for their World Imports this season. Deguara and Marcus Elliott have been the mainstays while the third spot has been filled by forward Eric Ferguson and Bassett, who’s a 6-foot-2 guard. With Holyfield in the lineup, this gives Eastern another dynamic having two imposing centers. Torres wasn’t initially sure how the one-two punch of Deguara and Holyfield would play out but shared that it has been a positive development so far.
“The most important thing between [them], even though it was weird and we haven’t really practiced with that because they were playing against each other in practice, it was actually interesting the past couple of days,” Torres explained. “So the attitude has been fine. They did their best to share the ball at times or find the others, find the right spacing, so it was okay.”
For Holyfield who has been used to playing at center throughout his young career, he mentioned that playing alongside a 7-foot-5 center was certainly different.
“It’s kinda weird they’re like ‘You can play the four,’ he recalled. “I’m looking at him like I’ve never played [anybody like that] in my career. It wasn’t that bad. We’re both posting up, eventually, we work pretty good together.”
“It’s good because whenever you can control the boards, most of the time you can control the game. It’s good that we’re both big, we’re both rebounding. Just gotta do the other little stuff like getting back in transition and be able to guard,” he added.
Coach Torres pointed out that nothing is set in stone with regards to his World Imports as Bassett is set to return in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, Holyfield is simply happy to strut his stuff in the ABL.
“The team signed me but I’m not sure how things are gonna go when he (Bassett) gets back,” Holyfield said. “But right now I’m just taking advantage of my opportunity and show the fans, show the league, show my coaches, show my teammates what I have, what I got.”