After bowing out in the quarterfinals last season, the Macau Black Bears will enter the 2019-20 ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) season under new head coach Charles Hantoumakos.

For the first time since its league debut back in the 2017-18 season (previously the Chong Son Kung Fu), the Macau Black Bears will begin its ABL campaign without the presence of import Anthony Tucker. Tucker, who was awarded World Import MVP in that inaugural season, signed with Mono Vampire Basketball Club during the offseason, and was also joined by 2018-19 Black Bear big man Ryan Watkins.

Fortunately for the Black Bears, the team was able to secure former Heritage Import MVP and last season’s scoring champion Mikh McKinney (26.7 points per game) for the upcoming campaign. In addition to retaining the sharpshooting Filipino-American guard, the Black Bears also brought in Charles Hantoumakos as the team’s new head coach.

Mikh McKinney consults Anthony Tucker during a 2019 ABL game.
The Macau Black Bears will be without Anthony Tucker for the 2019-20 ABL season. (Photo: Macau Black Bears)

With the regional league’s tenth season set to begin in a little over a month from now, the first-year head coach has been pleased with what he has seen from his team so far leading up to the upcoming campaign.

“The camp’s been going really well so far, the guys are really gellin’, coming together, buying into the system that we’re putting in, and it’s a really great group,” Hantoumakos said in a media session interview at the ABL’s season launch event. “We have a collective skillset. A lot of different guys that bring a lot of different things to the table, and they’re really meshing together well, so we’re really excited.”

Hantoumakos, who previously coached prep hoops in his native Canada and has helped in the development of some of the country’s next generation of top basketball talent, wanted to ensure he was prepared for his new gig at the helm of the Macau-based ball club.

“For me, I watched a lot of film prior to coming to Macau to get an idea of who we have and putting packages together,” continued the 35-year-old. “I think that for the first part, it was really just, you know, getting to know the guys and rolling out what we wanted to do.”

Inevitably, Hantoumakos’ film room sessions led him to perennial MVP candidate Mikh McKinney, who the coach couldn’t help but smirk about when asked how he could elevate the superstar’s game.

Macau Black Bears representatives stand on stage at the 2019 ABL season launch.
Charles Hantoumakos (Left), Lao Chong Pong (Center), and Lukas Peng (Right) stand on stage at the 2019 ABL season launch event. (Photo: ABL)

“The thing with Mikh, when you’ve got a player that’s that skilled, it’s really just a matter of putting him in the places that he’s comfortable,” Hantoumakos said. “As a coach, it’s more, I don’t want to intervene with anything that he’s been doing, I just want to help, you know, make the game a little bit easier for him.”

After a brief pause, Hantoumakos continued praising the dynamic offensive juggernaut.

“He’s obviously a very gifted scorer. His ability to put the ball in the hoop is uncanny.”

In the wake of losing Tucker and Watkins, the Black Bears signed new imports Kenny Manigault and Brandon Edwards in the offseason, and while the two do offer varying attributes to the roster, their additions have left the team with no imports who can naturally act as a big.

But despite the glaring differences in height from what the Black Bears had last season in Watkins, the Canadian head coach is confident that his imports will be able to thrive in the system he has brought in, and in particular, replicating the kind of output that Tucker was able to put out for the team last season.

Kenny Manigault looks to grab a rebound for Pyrintos.
Kenny Manigault will be looking to fill the void left by Anthony Tucker for the Macau Black Bears (Photo: Pyrintos)

“We’ve got Kenny Manigault that’s come in, Brandon Edwards, are two incredible pieces and they bring in a different skillset with what they’re doing,” shared Hantoumakos.

“I mean, Anthony Tucker was a high-usage guy. Kenny impacts the game I think the same way, just in different levels. I mean, he’s a very defensive player, he’s great at getting downhill, he can also shoot the ball, so, I mean, I think the skillset is different from what they bring, but the output’s going to be the same.”

In regards to expectations he has for his team in the upcoming campaign, Hantoumakos was firm in not looking too far ahead in setting a goal for how the season should ideally end, but rather, focusing more on near-sighted improvement and achievements.

“Our goal is getting one percent better every day, and that’s what we focus on. It’s just every day getting better to put ourselves in the best place we can to win our last game, and that’s it. And that’s how we take it day-by-day.”