Malaysian-born Simeon Lepichev will be suiting up as a local for Westports Malaysia Dragons in their 10th ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) season.
After the league implemented a new imports and local rule last season, players like Lepichev, who is officially Bulgarian but was born in Kuala Lumpur, became eligible as locals for teams of their birthplace.
As the Dragons’ first foreign addition, Lepichev has been with the team since June, giving him a few months time to adjust to living in Malaysia. Fortunately, he has adapted well and has enjoyed his time so far in the busy, tropical weather.
“It’s the Miami of Asia,” Lepichev remarked. “The environment, weather, are similar.”
Though living in Malaysia may come as a new experience for Lepichev, his familiarity with basketball does offer a gateway for what he can expect once the ABL season rolls around in his new home.
“Overall, I’m pretty excited because the level is a lot higher,” the 6-foot-9 power forward expressed about the upcoming campaign. “I know the ABL is a lot more physical and aggressive.”
During the league’s press conference in Manila at the beginning of October, Dragons head coach Jamie Pearlman noted that the addition of Lepichev “adds the size and four years of college experience to the locals lineup,” all of which are assets that they “really need.”
And while the former Florida Atlantic Owl is looking forward to his rookie season in Malaysia, he also knows that there are adjustments he needs to make regarding how the league is officiated, rather than passively awaiting for things to happen on their own.
“I’ve heard a lot of mixed things about the ABL,” Lepichev said. “It’s a lot different than the games I have played here [Malaysia] and the Taiwan tournament.”
With dreams of playing in the NBA one day, the 24-year-old Bulgarian has his eyes set on going up against the veterans and big names of the ABL, but the one who stands out among them all is fellow big man and former NBA player Renaldo Balkman, who helped lead San Miguel Alab Pilipinas to a championship title in 2017-2018.
“I want to see where I stand against people of that caliber, and know how far I am from the NBA,” Lepichev shared. “The NBA is my dream, so facing up against guys who’ve been there, it is exciting for me.”
“At least the playoffs, and see where we can go from there.”
During the past three unsuccessful seasons, the Dragons had trouble in assembling their best possible squad with desired imports and locals. But this off-season seems to be a different story for this Malaysian-based professional team.
After having troubles assembling their best possible squads with desired imports and locals, and missing the playoffs in three consecutive seasons, the Dragons are hoping their latest offseason moves can spell a different story for them come the 2019-20 season.
The Dragons are set to open their tenth ABL campaign against the Fubon Braves on the road November 17th.
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