Filipino basketball fans got an early Christmas gift from ABS-CBN Sports + Action (S+A) when it began to air the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) last week. Featuring six club teams representing six different countries, the ABL offers viewers a different basketball experience, as it pits Filipino athletes with international players and local superstars from other Asian countries for an entire season.
While the Philippines remains a juggernaut in the Southeast Asia basketball scene, our neighbors have also leveled up their play. And with reinforcements from other continents in the teams, each team brings its own unique flavor that makes ABL a venue for beautiful, exciting, and world class basketball action.
Want to know what else makes the ABL interesting? Read on.
1.) The ABL is home to some of the brightest stars in Asian basketball
Imports provide added muscle, height, and talent, but it will always be the local players that serve us the “heart” and the foundation of every team. Ready to lead their teams in terms of passion to win are players who fight for flag as members of their countries’ respective national teams. They are Singapore’s Wong Lei Wong, Hong Kong’s Chan Siu Wing, Malaysia’s Kok Hou, Vietnam’s Nguyễn, Thành Nhân, and the Philippines’ Bobby Ray Parks Jr. Also crowd favorites are brothers Seung Jun Lee and Dong Jun Lee, who are local celebrities in their native South Korea, where they also do hosting and modeling.
2.) ABL is all about growing basketball since its founding
ABL is a professional men’s basketball league launched in 2009 with the objective of further developing basketball across Southeast Asia and nearby regions. The first six teams that took part in it were the Brunei Barracudas, Kuala Lumpur Dragons, Satria Muda BritAma, Thailand Tigers, Singapore Slingers, and the inaugural champion, the AirAsia Philippine Patriots. The ABL champion competes in the FIBA Asian Champions Cup to represent Southeast Asia against other teams in the continent.
3.) The league has its own unique rules and features a quadruple round home and away format
In the ABL, each team gets to play in their hometown, defend their turf, and raise their flag while at it. It’s a refreshing scenario where teams get to visit different places, and possibly gain more fans in other countries. It’s bringing the sport closer to fans all over the region. Other league rules not seen in usual tournaments are: the top 4 teams play in the a best-of-three semi-finals, the first and second seed get home court advantage for the first and third (if necessary) games, and teams that advance from the playoffs play a best-of-5 finals series.
The league has gone beyond Southeast Asia with the entry of the popular Hong Kong Eastern Lions and Kaohsiung Truth (Taiwan), the first basketball team geared toward Christian ministry. Completing the teams this year are Saigon Heat (Vietnam), the first-ever professional basketball team in Vietnam; Singapore Slingers (Singapore), which first played in the Australian Basketball League and currently totes MVP Wong Wei Long; defending champion Westsports Malaysia Dragons (Malaysia); and our very own Alab Pilipinas (Philippines), led by former NU Bulldog Bobby Ray Parks Jr. and UST Tiger Jeric Fortuna.
5.) ALAB Pilipinas is the fourth team to represent the country in ABL
Before ALAB Pilipinas, there was AirAsia Philippine Patriots, anchored by Finals MVP Warren Ybanez, San Miguel Beermen, which relied on Asi Taluava, Chris Banchero, and former FEU star Leo Avenido, and the Pilipinas MX3 Kings that boasted of Willie Miller, Eric Salamat, and Val Acuna. Right now, the country has two ABL banners under its name. McC Cuan’s team, led by Parks and Korean national Seung Jun Lee, hopes to add a third one this year with the help of the likes of JR Cawaling, Jens Knuttel, Paolo Hubalde, and Hans Thiele.
6.) Teams from other countries have tapped Filipinos as imports
Yes, you read that right. As a testament to the prowess of Filipino basketball players, some of our homegrown players have suited up as imports for other teams in the ABL, the latest one being former UAAP star and NCAA analyst Mikee Reyes who was signed by Kaohsiung Truth recently. Fellow UP Maroon Marvin Cruz played for the Bangkok Cobras, as did former Blue Eagle Jai Reyes, who also wore the Saigon Heat uniform. The likes of Justin Melton and Mo Tautuaa also played for the Malaysia Dragons, while Kris Rosales stood out for the Singapore Slingers. Joshua Muzon of Saigon Heat is also a Fil-American. Even our coaches are being imported too. Ariel Vanguardia, who guided Westsports Malaysia Dragons to the 2015-2016 season title, is a proud Pinoy.
7.) The ABL features players from all over the world
Each team in the ABL are allowed to have: two non-ASEAN citizen imports, three ASEAN imports, one player with one Southeast Asian parent, seven local players, or just go pure local. The USA has been the favorite source of reinforcement of teams in the league. This season, Chris Charles, Derek Hall, and Xavier Alexander lead the list of American imports. Other “world imports” in the ABL are South Korea’s Daniel Sandrin or Seung Jun Lee, Bahamas’ Ryan Moss, and Chinese Taipei’s Steven Guinchard.
Get to know more about the newest member of the ABS-CBN Sports family. Catch the 7th season of the ASEAN Basketball League on S+A and S+A HD. For more news, features, and live streaming of the games, visit sports.abs-cbn.com or follow @ABSCBNSports on Twitter and Facebook.