A lesser-known club team representing the Philippines in the Southeast Asian basketball circuit is coming back for a second go-around in the upcoming Thailand Basketball Super League (TBSL).
Kabayan, a club team comprised mostly of Filipino professional basketball players first played in the Thai league last season with the likes of Eric Salamat, Lester Alvarez, Jaypee Belencion, Dorian Peña, Pari Llagas, and ASEAN veteran Leo Avenido. They were also joined by Filipino expats Cyrus Cabacungan, Ayeng Doria, and Joe Guiao.
This season, Kabayan will look to secure their first semifinals berth in the league with a revamped roster bannered by Filipino players who has recently played in the regional leagues like returning veteran Rudy Lingganay, swingman JR Cawaling, and power forward John Foronda. Avenido on the other hand, will be moving to Singaporean club team Adroit.
“In terms of communicating, I’m happy that most of us are Filipinos in the team,” says veteran point guard Rudy Lingganay, “Grateful and blessed to have another opportunity in the TBSL to play for Kabayan. I have always reminded myself to keep a positive outlook and give all the my best that I can contribute.”
“I’m also excited to be back in the TBSL. Especially now that I will be playing with Kabayan team, we are close with each other and are quite familiar with how everybody plays,” adds forward John Foronda. “Unlike my previous seasons (in the TBSL and TBL), I feel like we can compete with every team.”
Kabayan will be reinforced by former Ho Chi Minh City Wings (VBA) big man Bilal Richardson and young forward Darrell Steven Bowie in the world import slots, and Filipino-American Michael Bables as their ASEAN import.
“These guys play way more physical than Vietnam. They just got flat-out more talent and we also evidently have a more experienced team,” observes Richardson after a couple of practices with the team.
Filipino-American Mike Bables, who played Division I basketball for Texas A&M Corpus Christi is also excited to join for the team after professional stints in Latin America and Canada: “I expect to win a lot of games and I see a playoff berth or even a finals trip if we come together on the defense end, trust each other and play together.”
The team is set to be joined by former collegiate players Jerald Bautista, Paul Sanga, and Steven Cudal, and Filipino expats in Bangkok like John Duncil, Elias Sarona III, John David Orbeta, Leo Daylo Jr., Mark Lesaguis, and Rhoy Urbano. They will be helmed by former OSK R.Airlines handler Monell Kallos, who also used to be a long-time head coach in the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA), Philippine Basketball League (PBL).
Kabayan returns for a second straight season in the TBSL and will be joined by foreign teams Mekong United (Vietnam), Adroit (Singapore), Luang Prabang (Laos), and local mainstay clubs Mono Vampire, Mono Thewphaingarm, Hitech Basketball Club, PEA Basketball, Madgoat, and T-Rex (formerly known as the Dunking Raptors).
The team will debut against Mekong United when the TBSL season opens on the 27th of January.