Here comes Alab
National team legend Jimmy Alapag returns to the site of one of his greatest performances for the country, albeit in a new role.
The PBA great makes his coaching debut on Sunday as he leads Tanduay Alab Pilipinas against Hong Kong’s Eastern Sports Club in their season opener of the Asean Basketball League at Mall of Asia Arena.
“We will always have special memories [at MOA],” said Jimmy Alapag, whose endgame heroics for Gilas Pilipinas against Korea in the same arena in 2013 remains one of the greatest moments in Philippine basketball.
“Of course, it was a very special night for PH basketball when we beat Korea there. That place will always have a little bit of sentimental value to myself, and really, our country. To have an opportunity to have our first game there and my first game as a head coach, I’m excited for our guys. We’re expecting a great crowd.”
Alab immediately faces a stern test in the defending champion squad from Hong Kong bannered by Gilas Pilipinas big man Christian Standhardinger, who was made the first pick by San Miguel in the PBA Draft last month.
The 6-foot-8 Standhardinger, who will join San Miguel after the ABL season, will join forces with Thai-American Tyler Lamb and Marcus Elliot, the reigning best import.
“They’re the champions,” said Alapag. “Until somebody beats them, they have to be the favorites.”
Swept by the Singapore Slingers in the best-of-three semifinals last year, Alab underwent a major facelift with the addition of several PBA veterans and American imports Ivan Johnson and Reggie Okosa.
“We have our hands full, there’s a lot of tough teams,” said Alapag. “We start the season with Hong Kong and Singapore right out the gate, but it’s something we look forward to. It’s gonna give us a very good barometer of where we are early in the season.”
Ray Parks, Robby Celiz and heritage import Lawrence Domingo are the holdovers from last year’s Alab squad.