Seven Pinoy Ballers to Watch for in the 8th ABL Season



Filipinos love basketball. This is a fact known all over the world. So, it’s not surprising that a young and rising league in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL), which airs on ABS-CBN S+A, has been a stomping ground for some of the country’s best ballers in the past eight years, including Jayson Castro, Junemar Fajardo, Asi Taulava, Leo Avenido, Matthew Wright, Stanley Pringle, and Chris Banchero.

Now, there’s a new breed of Filipino stars invading the ABL, led by MVP Bobby Ray Parks of the Tanduay-Alab Pilipinas. While Parks gets to represent the country, some of his contemporaries were tapped to play for other nations as heritage imports.

Resident ABL analysts Marco Benitez and Martin Javier said in separate interviews that teams prefer to bring in Filipinos as heritage imports since they have proven themselves in being able to dominate the game in different facets whether it is on offense or defense. “I believe the Philippines has among the best talent and can provide the most potential for heritage imports,” Benitez added.

To both, the league is a learning ground not only for the locals but also for the imports, who get exposed to quality competition playing in an international league, making them step out of their comfort zones, raise their games to the next level, and be recognized in all of Asia. It also helps in widening perspectives about how the sport is played in the different places each team visits in the league’s Home-and-Away format. Aside from that, the ABL is like playing the national team of each member country who field members of their national squads in the ball clubs.

Now, who are the Filipinos making a mark as heritage imports in the ABL? Let’s get to know them.
Christian Standhardinger, Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions

National team standout Standhardinger wasted no time introducing himself to his new ball club as he led them to victories and posted huge numbers, the best of which was his 40-point, 17-rebound outing against Mono Vampire. The Filipino big who hails from Germany is a growing problem for the league to deal with as he continues to put up monster line after monster line, giving Hong Kong a big shot at defending their title. According to analysts Marco Benitez and Martin Javier, Standhardinger, who is averaging 25.8 points and 12 rebounds for Hong Kong, has fit in seamlessly with the defending champs and has made them even more dangerous.
James Forrester, Formosa Dreamers

Former Arellano Chief Forrester did not get the pro league career everyone thought he would have after leading his school to the NCAA Finals against powerhouse San Beda. But the 6-foot-3 guard gets a second chance to showcase his talents with Formosa, where he is slowly recapturing his old self and is proving to be quite a catch for the Dreamers. With his deadly handle and killer step-back jumpshot, fans can only watch in bated breath as the former Chief of Chiefs hums to life once more when he returns from the sickbay.
AJ Mandani, Singapore Slingers
Mandani has found himself quite a home for the Singapore Slingers as one of their lead guards. He has been a stabilizing presence for the erstwhile contenders as they navigate through the season in a souped-up ABL. Together with world imports Xavier Alexander and Ryan Wright, they look to recapture their former glory and challenge the seemingly-invincible Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions. The 5-foot-11 point guard has shown during his stint in Thailand that he can be a top-tier point guard and that was enough for the Slingers who needed a solid quarterback for their offense. To Marco Benitez, Mandani has found his groove under Singapore coach Neo Beng Siang and has produced alongside their world imports while Javier believes the stability Mandani brings to the table has made him a fit for the Slingers who are playing without two-time ABL MVP Wong Wei Long.
Paul Zamar, Mono Vampire
Zamar is best known as a former UE Warrior who had an amazing run in the eliminations of the UAAP back in 2007 with the likes of Mark Borboran, Marcy Arellano, and then-budding star Paul Lee. Nowadays, he is enjoying a sort of cult following back in Thailand as a member of the Mono Vampire squad, scoring 52 points once in the Thai pro circuit. In the ABL, the 5-foot-11 guard remains one of Mono Vampire’s best weapons against the big dogs of the ABL. Both Benitez and Javier have said that Zamar remains to be Mono’s third-best weapon behind world imports Reggie Johnson and Patrick Sanders.
Patrick Cabahug, Westports Malaysia Dragons
Cabahug was once one of the best two-way guards to play in the UAAP thanks to his scoring and shot-making ability alongside former UAAP MVP and Adamson Falcon Ken Bono. Since then, he has taken his talents overseas, especially in Malaysia where Cabahug is a celebrated baller, something that fits a talent of his caliber. It’s a joy to see former college stars still trotting out there and reminding them why Filipinos rule the basketball courts in this region. This is his second outing with the Dragons and Cabahug is out to win it all in the ABL this time around.

Reil Cervantes, Westports Malaysia Dragons
Cervantes is new to the ABL community but that hasn’t stopped someone who hasn’t seen a shot he wouldn’t take from endearing himself to the fans, and to his teammates. A mobile player who can play both forward spots and even some Center is sure hard to come by. The former FEU Tamaraw’s ability to make big-time plays on both ends of the court as versatile weapon in the games that he was able to showcase his stuff for Westports.

Rudy Lingganay, CSL Knights Indonesia
Lingganay is looking forward to a triumphant return to the league that gave him a second life in basketball. Lingganay first made a name for himself in the collegiate ranks as a hard-nosed ball hawker for the UE Red Warriors running alongside the likes of Paul Lee and Elmer Espiritu. He first made waves as a member of the Kuala Lumpur Dragons, endearing himself to fans with his all-out hustle and clutch playmaking. He joins forces with Filipino-Indonesian, and former UE player, Biboy Enguio as he tries to turn the CSL Knights Indonesia into contenders.

Catch all the Filipino ballers who are championing our flag and making us proud despite being representatives of other teams as the ABL continues its slam-bang action week after week on S+A and S+A HD!


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