After finishing his previous ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) campaign in incredible all-around individual performance fashion, where he recorded averages of 28.6 points, 9.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game, Mike Singletary, along with his club Mono Vampire, had all the reasons to believe that this season could be their time to take the throne to Bangkok, Thailand.
However, to start the 2018-19 season, the Vampire only managed to grab one victory through early January. Things went unexpectedly bad. Players were frustrated. Roster changes occurred frequently.
“We obviously didn’t have the regular season we had hoped for at the beginning of the year,” admits Singletary.
“But we just wanted a chance in the playoffs.”
In addition to the season’s poor opening, Jason Brickman, the team’s residential import and playmaker, abruptly made an exit at the most volatile time, forcing management to look for a reputable player who could instantly fill in the void left by the Filipino-American guard. But replacing someone like Brickman, a player who not only possesses high basketball IQ, but also familiarity within the team’s system, would be no easy task on such short notice.
“Obviously, losing a player as good as Jason is tough for any team to overcome, but we’ve done a good job of just using our basketball IQs and playing for each other,” shared the American forward. In what may have come as a surprise to many, the now Singletary-led Vampire were able to pull off an impressive second half of the season.
It became vividly apparent that Singletary was a man on a mission from that point on. On top of his vocal leadership, the versatile forward made sure to also lead by example, finishing the regular season by averaging 25.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game. More importantly, his team earned the league’s final playoff spot.
Late in the regular season, the Vampire looked nearly unstoppable and seemed to be peaking at just the right time. And their reward? A first-round matchup with the top-seeded Formosa Dreamers – a team that ended the 2018-19 regular season just one victory shy of becoming the first 20-win team in ABL history. Given the circumstances, the Taiwanese team was not only considered the clear-cut favorite in its opening round contest, but also a strong contender for hoisting the championship trophy at season’s end.
With no home court advantage against a team which had just completed one of the best regular seasons in league history, Singletary and his teammates found themselves with their backs against the wall once again. Fortunately, the trials that the Vampire had to endure leading up to their date with the Dreamers gave them an unwavering grit and grind mentality that helped propel their two-game sweep of the league’s supposed best team.
“We knew once we got into that zone, it would be a different season for us, and we have taken advantage so far,” the 30-year-old expressed regarding the team’s dogfight mindset in their opening round upset. “Formosa was a really good team and tough for us, but we hung together and found a way to move on to the next round.”
For their upcoming semifinals matchup, the Vampire will face off against the CLS Knights, and arguably, the most hostile crowd and arena when they travel to GOR Kertajaya. The Indonesian fans are passionate and certainly not shy in expressing their “love” for opposing teams, but Thailand’s representative is aware of the intangibles that are sure to rear their heads in Surabaya, and is more than ready for a fight.
“We know all about their home court, they have a lot of loud cheering fans. But our goal is to get a win. We just have to focus on what we can control and that’s how we play and how we execute,” Singletary elaborated in a calm manner.
He isn’t worried so much about the opposing veterans, nor the stadium packed to the brim with belligerent fans. Rather, he believes it’s the within that will ultimately determine the team’s success.
“If we focus on what we need to do, then we will give ourselves a chance to win.”
They’ve been on the cusps of ultimate victory before, so the goal of taking home the championship in this go-around isn’t just a wild pipe dream, and it’s the bitter taste of falling just short of the finish line that drives guys like Singletary and Darongpan Apiromvilaichai.
“For me personally, and the guys that were here last year, we feel that we have some unfinished business. We got to the finals last year and ran into a really good squad in Alab. We had a chance to take home the title, and we just didn’t get it done.”
It would be unfair to compare this season’s squad to last year’s, but the additions of Tyler Lamb, Romeo Travis, Freddie Lish, Moses Morgan, and Malcolm White bring tremendous value, giving the team players who are capable of taking over games down the stretch and can come up clutch, especially in a tight series.
“We all have one mindset, and that’s to win a championship. The experience and leadership we get from guys like Romeo and Tyler really help us out.
With the same goal in mind and those veterans we have, we’re just trying to be in the moment and take it game by game.”
The ABL semifinals series between Mono Vampire and the CLS Knights begin April 21 at GOR Kertajaya, Surabaya.
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