Awarded as one of the ten greatest players in ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) history, the 38-year-old Christien Charles has humbly made it clear that his second stint with the Saigon Heat is currently the only thing on his mind.
Charles’ position amongst the ABL’s All-Time 10 is indisputable, with one championship, two World Import MVP’s and three Defensive Player of the Year awards in six seasons, playing for four different franchises.
“I tribute a lot of my success to guys that I’ve played with, organizations and coaches,” Charles expressed after receiving the award at the ABL’s season launch event in Manila, Philippines Thursday afternoon.
“It has more to do with me being around good people and good teammates that helped me elevate my game. Overall, I’m just honored.”
Despite not being an outstanding player after four years of college at Villanova University (averaged only 1.8 points per game), Charles still managed to receive short-lived basketball stints around the world before landing in Thailand in 2013 at the age of 32.
“When I started out in the ABL, I never thought that I would be [at this point],” recalled Charles regarding his first experience in Southeast Asia playing for the Chang Thailand Slammers (now known as Hi-Tech). “I was taking it day-by-day as a practice player, then things happened for me.”
The former Wildcat spent the next two seasons in Thailand, and together, with another ABL All-Time 10 awardee in Steven Thomas, formed a feared frontcourt that won a championship in 2014.
Coincidentally, Thomas is now also back in the league for the upcoming 2019-20 season, having signed with the Zhuhai Wolf Warriors. Charles, had nothing but nice words for his former partner in crime.
“I’m super excited to see him back in the league and have him as a competitor. I know how hard he works, his legacy based on how much he has done in the league and how much he loves the game,” said Charles.
“We had battles going back to his days at the Indonesia Warriors and I’m happy to compete against him,” continued the towering seven-footer. “Just being able to share the court with him is already a blessing.”
Prior to the start of the 2016-17 ABL season, Charles moved to Vietnam with expectations of being the missing piece to a Saigon Heat championship quest, but injuries derailed the 7-foot-1 center’s impact for the team, limiting him to just four appearances before being replaced. After two years, the Vietnamese club decided to give Charles another opportunity on a stage where he is currently the all-time blocks leader and fourth in scoring.
“I’m really excited and honored to be back in the country of Vietnam that has embraced me throughout the years,” shared Charles on what he thinks about rejoining the Heat. “I’m eager to get to work with and learn from Coach Yurkus and the team to help build on what this organization has already accomplished.”
Understanding the growing concerns from fans regarding his age and injury history, the Milwaukee native also addressed his fitness condition.
“I’m great right now. I have been working hard, doing all the right things on my end to get myself healthy and being able to perform for the best fans in the league.”
Head Coach Kevin Yurkus also voiced his side in reference to fan concerns.
“One thing I’ve learnt over the years is age is just a number,” said the new Heat head coach. “It’s not how old you are, it’s how old you feel [and] Charles takes care of himself, is in great shape, has been injury-free for several months, and played well in recent competitions.”
The two-time VBA Coach of the Year also showed his high hopes for Charles being an integral part of the Heat’s upcoming campaign, adding, “He’s a true professional, hungry, and still has one to two good years left to play basketball.”
“He’s very experienced in the region. He is a first class guy, great teammate, and a winner. I believe he can still be a major factor to help us get to another level.”
Although the world import trio has already been completed, the Saigon Heat will reportedly kick off its ABL season later than other competing teams as most of its projected local players will be preparing for the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines in December.
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