AirAsia Patriots take on Bangkok Cobras as ABL unfolds
MANILA, Philippines – Unfamiliar with their first foe, the AirAsia Philippine Patriots hope to get off to a strong start Saturday against a newcomer that tapped the father of an NBA superstar as its coach as well as two of the league’s tallest imports.
The Patriots, parading what could be their strongest roster yet, kick off their bid to reclaim the championship against the Bangkok Cobras as Season 3 of the Asean Basketball League (ABL) unfolds with a lone game in Manila.
“We know the expectations are high, but I think we’re in good shape,” said new Patriots coach Glenn Capacio. “The players are conditioned, so it’s just more of the mental aspect [that we want to sharpen].”
The Patriots clash with the Cobras— who hired the father of Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, Joe Bryant, as their coach—at 4 p.m. at the San Juan gym.
The San Miguel Beermen, the other Philippine squad in the eight-team field, debuts against the Westports Malaysia Dragons in Kuala Lumpur Sunday.
“I think we have a more balanced league this time,” said Capacio. “But we know we just can’t rely on talent, so we must also work on our chemistry.”
Aldrech Ramos, the former Smart Gilas national team mainstay, leads the Patriots’ revamped roster along with Al Vergara, Warren Ybañez, Jonathan Fernandez, Marcy Arellano, Eddie Laure and skipper Rob Wainwright.
“I think this is the best team we’ve ever formed in three seasons,” said team owner and Harbour Centre CEO Mikee Romero.
The Patriots also tapped Nakiea Miller, who copped last season’s Best Import award with the Dragons, and Anthony Johnson as reinforcements.
But the duo will be up against the league’s tallest American pair in 7-footer Gentry Lewis and the 6-foot-11 Bruce Brown. The Cobras also has former PBA cager Marvin Cruz as their Asean import.
“We haven’t scouted them. Hopefully we’ll get off to a good start,” said Capacio.
The Patriots ruled the first season of the home-and-away league, but lost the title last year to Chang Thailand Slammers.
“I think we’ve found our rhythm, but we have to improve every game if we want to return to the finals,” said Capacio.
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