The TNT KaTropa is set to face an undermanned Liaoning Flying Leopards team at East Asia Super League’s Terrific 12 tournament opener in Macau, China.

The latest Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) runners-up are bracketed under Group D, and will make their debut against the 2018 Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) titlists Liaoning tonight.

TNT’s pair of national team guards Jayson Castro and RR Pogoy would have been a great matchup for the Leopard’s own backcourt duo of Guo Ailun and Zhao Jiwei, but they opted to stay behind to take time off, a week removed from their FIBA World Cup campaign with the Chinese national team.

Guo, widely regarded as the successor to Castro’s title as the ‘Best Point Guard in Asia’, was brilliant in Team Dragon’s two victories against the Ivory Coast and South Korea at the recent World Cup. The matchup with the former Gilas Pilipinas court general would have been a great barometer.

Guo Ailun of China attempts a layup against the Ivory Coast at the FIBA World Cup 2019. (Photo: FIBA)
Guo Ailun is widely regarded as the successor to Jayson Castro’s title as the ‘Best Point Guard in Asia’ (Photo: FIBA)

Liaoning would nonetheless be a tough test for the KaTropa, as they will be reinforced by former NBA players Lance Stephenson and Salah Mejri.

The 28 year-old Stephenson averaged 7.2 points while shooting 42.6% per game with the Los Angeles Lakers last season in the NBA, while the former Dallas Maverick center Mejri most recently suited up for his home country of Tunisia at the World Cup, racking up solid averages of 16.2 points and 10.2 boards a game.

Salah Mejri replaces Brandon Bass in Liaoning's Terrific 12 lineup (Photo: FIBA)
Salah Mejri replaces Brandon Bass in Liaoning’s Terrific 12 lineup (Photo: FIBA)

Meanwhile, McKenzie Moore and KJ McDaniels will be bolstering the TNT squad as the imports. Moore was last seen in action with the Mighty Sports-Philippines team that recently swept the competition at the 2019 William Jones Cup in Taiwan, while former NBA swingman McDaniels is best known with his high-leaping ability and athleticism.

All teams are set to battle the two other squads in their division in a single round-robin during the group stage, where only the top-seeded team advances to the knock-out semifinal round. The next two eliminated teams then compete for third place, before the final two standing teams contend for The Terrific 12 championship.

There are 22 networks that will air and stream the event in different markets, with Youtube and being the most accessible to fans around the globe (alternatively YouKu, Sina, Tencent Sports, or ZhiboTV for China). Visit Macau Ticket outlets or website to purchase passes.

TNT KaTropa opens their East Asia Super League tournament against Liaoning Flying Leopards at 2100H (+8 GMT) tonight at the at the Tap Seac Multi-sports Pavilion in Macau, China SAR.

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