The freshly minted Malaysia Pro League (MPL) tips off on the 13th of October 2017, after a four year absence of a national level Malaysian basketball league. The last league was known as the Malaysian National Basketball League (MNBL). MPL management has emphasized that this year’s edition will be a trial as the league looks to set a foundation for a longer competition in 2018.
The MPL will run for a span of three consecutive weekends with the final game culminating on the 29th of October. Six teams (one guest team from the Philippines) will be participating with the top two automatically qualifying for the semi-finals while the remaining four will play one-off elimination games to determine the final two semi-finalists. Each team will be allowed to name up to 16 players for their season roster, two of which being import players.
With a fresh new slate for the Malaysian basketball scene, the possibilities are endless as to the outcome of which team will ultimately raise the trophy come the 29th of October.
You can find more information and details on the league at their facebook page.
Representing the ‘Pearl Of The Orient,” the Penang Stallions are actually the oldest club in the competition, having been established in 1992 with their last appearance at the national league level coming in 2012 as semi-finalists.
This year, despite being the oldest club competing, they have assembled the youngest line up among the six participating teams. According to head coach, Tan Chee Wen, this approach was taken as a preparation for the SUKMA Games in 2018, a tournament equivalent to a Malaysian Olympics event.
Basketball will be competed at a junior level, hence the decision to field a team with an average age of 19 with the goal of achieving the gold medal at the SUKMA Games. It will be interesting to see how the young talent of Penang fares against senior level players from other teams as well as their American imports. They will also be the only Malaysian team opting for two Filipino imports.
The Stallions will be coached by local Penangite coach, Tan Chee Wan.
Jayson Lee Shu Wen
A two-time top scorer at the National U17 Championship and has already represented Penang State at the Agong Cup, Malaysia’s top all locals competition in 2016 at the age of 18. He is projected to be the starting point guard with his experience from being the floor general of the team and will also be looked at to carry the brunt of scoring responsibilities for the team.
Only 18 years of age, Adrian recently caught the attention of the Malaysian basketball scene by winning the 2017 ASEAN Top Baller competition, earning him a one month training camp at the Alexander Basketball Academy in Pennsylvania, USA. He earned high praises from the coaches for his excellent defense and passing skills as a point guard. This will be his first time competing at a national level competition.
Hailing from the Philippines and at 6 ft 2, the 29 year old Bautista will be the tallest player on the team. A graduate of STI College Global City Taguig, he last played for Batangas Team in the PBA D-League where he helped propel the team to a quarterfinal finish with a 6-4 record at the recently concluded 2017 PBA D-League Foundations Cup. He also saw action with the St Lucia Realtors in the Philippines Commercial Basketball League (PCBL).
Also from the Philippines, the 26-year old Zamora was the top scorer for the LPU Pirates in the Philippines’ NCAA with 15.2 PPG in 2013 and was also Bautista’s teammate with Batangas in the PBA D-League.
KL DRAGONS BASKETBALL ACADEMY
Probably the most recognizable Malaysian basketball team amongst ASEAN basketball fans, the 2015-2016 ABL Champions, Westports Malaysia Dragons will be participating in the Malaysia Pro League under the banner of KL Dragons Basketball Academy, the name of their basketball academy conducting basketball training sessions for the community of Kuala Lumpur.
They will be using only one member of their 2016-2017 ABL Season squad, Syahrul Ridzwan Rosli and have recalled several members from their past ABL seasons including John Ng, Izran Edika, Tung Chee Keong, and Foong Ming Joe .
The team has decided to give opportunities to several young, amateur players active in the Kuala Lumpur amateur basketball scene. With a balanced mixed of experience and youth, the KL Dragons Basketball Academy will be looking to spring some surprises at the MPL.
It is worth noting that key players from the Dragon’s ABL Squad, Wong Yi Hou, Kuek Tian Yuan, Ivan Yeo, Ting Chun Hong and Teo Kok Hou will not be participating due to commitments with another local Malaysian team, NS Matrix, who will be travelling to Taiwan for an overseas training stint
They will be coached by American, Christopher Thomas, who also coached the team during the 2016-2017 ABL Season.
The 36 year old veteran forward will be coming out of retirement for another shot at national level basketball. The man known as the ‘’Klang Gangster’ played 5 seasons for Westports Malaysia Dragons in the ABL and was a former national team player. Known for his hustle and grit on defense and his 3-point shooting, Ng, will be expected to lead the team.
Syahrul Ridzwan Rosli
A young strong forward at the age of 19, he has already been featured for the Dragons at the 2016 FIBA Asia Champions Cup, the 2016 Merlion Cup, and the entire 2016-2017 ABL Season. Rosli has been playing for the national youth team since 2013 where he helped Malaysia to a 9th place finish at the FIBA Asia U16 Championship, which to date, is Malaysia’s best finish in the competition.
Toth is a 24 year old 6 ft 2 Filipino-American shooting guard, fresh from representing the Cal Poly Mustangs (NCAA Division I) where he finished the season shooting 43.9% from downtown. A quick-fire gunner, the Dragons will look to Toth for easy buckets. This will be his first international basketball assignment and he is already setting his eyes on one day, playing in the PBA.
Eves will be one of the most intriguing imports to watch at the MPL. At the age of 34, the 6 ft 7 Eves played college basketball in Canada for York University where he averaged 19.8 PPG and 5.8 RPG in his final season in 2007. He has been residing in Malaysia, working as a university lecturer for the past few years.
He is very active in the local basketball scene in Malaysia and led his team, Smart ACC.com to the Industrial and Commercial Basketball League (ICBL) championship in 2014 against overwhelming opposition which included professional imports and national team players. It will be interesting to see if he can match up against the other team’s full time professional import players.
KING PINAS ASIA
The only foreign team participating in the MPL from the Philippines will be known as King Pinas Asia. They share the same ownership with ZC Mindanao Aguilas who participated in the PBA D-League. Their goal is to provide players from the Mindanao region an opportunity to compete at an international level and will also be featuring EJ Feihl, a 47 year old, 7 ft 1 ex-PBA Player, the second tallest player in PBA history.
The 30 year old 6 ft 5 forward is the cousin of Filipino boxing legend, Manny Pacquiao, and was drafted in the PBA Rookie Draft in 2014 by Kia. He wasn’t signed to his team and spent a couple of years playing in the PBA D-League for MP Hotel. In June 2017, he finally made his PBA debut for Mahindra, scoring six points against Ginebra.
26 years old, the 5 ft 8 point guard played for the College of Saint Benilde in NCAA Philippines where he was a decent three point shooter and has experience with the Mindanao Aguilas playing for them in the PBA D-League.
As of the publishing time of this article, we have yet to receive further information on their sole import, an African player named Suom Deng. We will update this article as we receive further information from the team.