Under Jamie Pearlman’s leadership, the Westports Malaysia Dragons are poised for a 180 degree turnaround, from the bottom of last season’s standings to the top in 2019-20.
In his first year at the helm, Jamie Pearlman and his Westports Malaysia Dragons finished ninth overall in the 2018-2019 ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) regular season standings with an 8-18 record. And though the team failed to make a playoff appearance for the third consecutive season, the Australian head coach remained excited in the growth he saw from his young players.
“There has been a couple of [local] standouts for us since last season,” Pearlman expressed from Manila during the ABL’s press conference ahead of the league’s tenth season. “Chin Cheng Wah, he came in and played well for us and he is now at the national team preparing for the SEA games.”
With the trust and role given to Chin last season, the Malaysia local was able to act as a primary defender for the Dragons despite averaging just 2.9 points and 2.1 rebounds per game.
Pearlman also believes the addition of 24-year-old Malaysia-born Bulgarian Simeon Lepichev will boost the strength of the team’s current lineup, after his eligibility issue was resolved with league officials allowing him to suit up as a local for the Dragons.
“Simeon adds the size and four years of college experience to the locals lineup which we really need,” added the former New Zealand NBL Coach of the Year.
“He is young, hungry, and ready to prove himself. So as a local player for us, he is a great addition.”
The Dragons have faced various difficulties in recruiting imports over the past few seasons following their championship title in 2015-16, and this offseason has been no exception. However, the Malaysian squad has inked deals with Amir Bell and former Formosa Dreamers center William Artino in response to other teams in the league who have already assembled their rosters.
Although the 23-year-old Bell may not have the stunning resume to match that of some his ABL counterparts, his defensive prowess and high basketball IQ are assets which are expected to complement well with Pearlman’s system.
“We feel like he brings balance with his skillset, a very good defender and team general. When choosing players, it’s either you go with a veteran or a really hungry young guy. I think from a coaching point of view, he fits in really well with his all-around game.”
In light of the addition of the 6-foot-eleven Artino, which hasn’t been officially announced by the Dragons just yet, Pearlman also revealed at the ABL press conference that the team will looking to bring in a swingman-type import to complete its lineup in the coming weeks.
In the seasons since its championship triumph, the Dragons may not have been as entertaining or competitive as fans would have hoped for, but its ambitions to bring a title back to Malaysia has not changed one bit.
“Like every year, we see ourselves as a final team, we want to get to the finals than make a three game or five game series, so our target is definitely the finals,” closed a confident Pearlman.
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