Taiwan, Hong Kong join ABL in new season
The Asean Basketball League is looking forward to another big year with the inclusion of two new teams in Taiwan and Hong Kong and entry of a Philippine side determined to bring the title back to Manila.
The Kaohsiung Truth and Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions are the first non-Asean squads to become part of the growing ABL landscape.
“The entry of teams from non-Asean countries is a great sign for the league because it shows that the ABL is reaching more and more people,” said ABL COO Jericho Ilagan during the league’s press launch Monday at Solaire Resort and Casino.
“It also means that next season the league will have fresh player match-ups and maybe even new rivalries,” Ilagan added.
Taiwan and Hong Kong will join four other teams in defending champions Westports Malaysia Dragons, last season’s losing finalists Singapore Slingers, Saigon Heat and Alab Pilipinas.
Alab Pilipinas will be led by former PBA players Jeric Fortuna, Val Acuña, Rob Celiz and Paolo Hubalde in its attempt to regain the country’s lost glory.
The last time a team in the Philippines won the championship was in 2013 when the San Miguel Beermen swept the Indonesia Warriors.
Last season, Philippine-based team MX3 finished in last place with an embarrassing 2-18 record.
“Everyone in the team has this opportunity and we want to maximize that chance. Hopefully our play and our positive attitude can win another championship for the Philippines,” said Fortuna, who was part of the Beermen during their ABL championship run.
“We’re all excited and we’re all ready to prove ourselves,” said Cuan, who is making his head-coaching debut with Alab Pilipinas.
The seventh ABL season begins on Nov. 25 in Singapore and the league couldn’t have thought of a better way to start the action than pitting the Dragons against the Slingers.
The Dragons outlasted the Slingers in the finals, winning the championship in a deciding Game 5.
“I’ve been in the league for seven years in a capacity with the team and the league also. The competition this year, I’ve never seen it in the ABL,” said Ilagan.
“You have three veteran teams (Malaysia, Singapore and Saigon) who already know how to play in the Fiba setting and then you infuse it with the Philippine team which is really hungry not only to win but to win the championship.”