For the past week and a half, fervor for the upcoming ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) season has been brewing in Vietnam as the Saigon Heat began releasing a barrage of player signings. While keeping tabs on which of their favorite players from the Vietnam Basketball Association (VBA) would be brought along the journey through the much more competitive regional league as local players, watchful eyes were also inevitably placed on just who the team would bring in as their world imports.
The wait is now over after Murphy Burnatowski, Kyle Barone, and DaVonte Lacy were confirmed to be the team’s latest signings.
Murphy Burnatowski, 27, is a talented 6’7” slashing forward out of Colgate University in New York. Following the end of his collegiate career, he played three professional seasons overseas before signing on with the Heat for the ABL’s ninth season.
“Murphy is a special player on multiple levels,” said Heat head coach Kyle Julius. “His skillset is extremely high, his IQ is high level, and most importantly, he is a winner. He has won multiple championships as a pro. Murphy makes us better and will enhance our culture right away. He will play multiple positions and will play with toughness and grit.”
From 2016-2017, the Canadian Burnatowski suited up for APOEL Nicosia in the FIBA Euro Cup and Cypriot Division A, where he was named an All Star, received honors as a Eurobasket.com All-Cyprus mention and was selected to an All-Defensive team. In his most recent stop as a member of Fribourg Olympic from the Swiss LNA, Burnatowski had one of his best offensive seasons, averaging 14.5 points per game on 44 percent shooting from the field overall and 36 percent from three-point range.
The Heat’s second world import signee, Kyle Barone, is no stranger to basketball in Asia and should be able to offer plenty of length as the team’s last line of defense, with Julius referring to the American as a “special big man” and one who is “versatile and very intelligent.”
As a 6’10” forward-center, Kyle Barone played at the University of Idaho from 2009-2013, being named the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Player of the Year during his senior season, when he led the conference in both points and rebounds. In his final season as a Vandal, Barone averaged 17.1 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game.
“He will fit in to our style of play as well as provide some rim protection and the ability for us to pound the ball inside,” described Julius on his new big. “I’m looking forward to pushing him to new heights and having him make us a better ball club.”
After going undrafted in 2013, Barone bounced around the world, beginning his professional career in Poland, then moving to Hungary, followed by a stop in Asia with Japanese NBL team, Link Tochigi Brex, where he averaged 10.4 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.
In 2015, Barone earned a spot on the Minnesota Timberwolves’ NBA Summer League team, where he averaged 10 minutes per game and put up 2.3 points per contest. Before signing with the Heat for ABL 9, Barone had played in Taiwan’s Super Basketball League (SBL) for two seasons with Kingman Kaoliang Liquor.
With an uptempo style of basketball that Kyle Julius likes to play, the 2018-2019 Heat roster wouldn’t be complete without a talented guard on the team.
DaVonte Lacy is a 6’5” 25-year-old combo guard from Tacoma, Washington, and played his college ball at Washington State University for four years, averaging 16.9 points, 2.1 assists, and 2.3 rebounds as a senior before graduating in 2015. During his most recent season as a professional, a stint with German Pro A team Ehingen, the former Cougar put up 18.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game.
“Davonte is a big strong point guard with athleticism and skill,” said Julius. “He shoots the ball at a high level and has the ability to become a matchup problem for smaller guards in the post and in transition. Davonte is a high caliber guard who knows how to create for himself and others. He is a great fit for our culture and our system.”
We’ll just have to wait and see how the team ultimately meshes together, but from the look of how the team has been built thus far, expectations have never been higher in Saigon.