ABL spices up hoops fare
The Air Asia Asean Basketball League or ABL is an interesting tournament for a number of reasons. Now on its third year, the teams involved are from the Southeast Asian region where basketball is vying for a share of the limelight against football, which is more popular and encompassing.
First, the ABL gives Filipino players of varied backgrounds a chance to play in an extremely competitive and physical league.
Because national passions are involved, there is heated action that often results in skirmishes on the floor. And since many of the players have had professional or top-rate collegiate experience, a fairly high level of skill is displayed each game.
The ABL serves as another league for pros, who can no longer be accommodated in PBA lineups. It’s not always an age thing but more about PBA teams making room for newer players and possibly the future.
The former pros who are in either the Philippine Patriots roster or the San Miguel Beer squad still have spunk and savvy like Al Vergara, Eddie Laure, Reed Juntilla, Leo Avenido, Warren Ybanez, Patrick Cabahug, Benedict Fernandez, among others.
Stellar performances by some of these former pros could mean a return ticket to the Big Show known as the PBA. The PBA is always on the lookout for players who can make an instant impact, especially with the specter of injuries always lurking around.
Second, the ABL continues to be a source of income for Filipino players and coaches as imported talent for the other teams.
For example, former UP Maroon and pro Marvin Cruz suited up for the Bangkok Cobras in their opening game against the Philippine Patriots.
Former JRU coach Ariel Vanguardia is head coach of the Westsports Malaysia Dragons. This is proof that Filipino talent is still a prime commodity in the region and Asean teams are looking to beef up their basketball rosters with a Pinoy coach or player.
For sure, the Filipino players and coaches hired by foreign teams have an undying love for the Philippines. It’s just that the opportunity presents itself to keep on playing and coaching and to be paid reasonably well for one’s skills.
The classic line “Trabaho lang, walang personalan” (It’s just a job, nothing personal) rings true and is understood by everyone in the hoops community.
Lastly, the ABL allows us to constantly look at the talent landscape in Asean basketball. Although teams play with two American imports to spice up the game, there is an opportunity to assess if there is any new talent coming up from our neighbors.
The Philippines has continued to dominate Southeast Asian Games basketball but there’s no harm in keeping our guard up to spot new stars of our opponents.
The TV coverage that includes a link to ESPN Asia airtime is also an asset for the Philippines. Since the ABL is strongly Filipino-flavored within its Asean ranks, many will also discover that basketball is definitely more fun in the Philippines.
With two Philippine teams, the bulk of the games will understandably be staged here.
This reminds everyone that basketball is a great tourist lure and activity aside from beaches, mountains and other sporting pursuits.
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