With less than a month to go before the start of a new season, diehard ABL fans have been excitedly anticipating the upcoming campaigns of their favourite teams. Recent new developments around the league indicate that this will be an exciting season and here are eight reasons why.
1. ABL’s Family is Growing
Six teams spread across Southeast Asia, in addition to three teams from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China bring the count to a record of nine total teams that will be participating and vying for the championship this season. As league participation grows, so too is the overall fan base as new fans from the basketball-crazed China will now have a team to cheer for in the league.
Indonesia and Thailand have each also sent a representative this time around. With the expanded reach this season, the league is bound to have more exciting games, new rivalries to be made, and new basketball heroes playing for their respective countries.
2. New Kids on the Block
The CLS Knights, Formosa Dreamers, and Nanhai Long Lions are the newest additions to the league. With the CLS Knights being based in Surabaya, East Java will be bringing their rich winning tradition and experience from the Indonesian domestic league (IBL), while the Formosa Dreamers will be the new team from Taiwan after the disbandment of last season’s entry, the Kaohsiung Truth.
The Dreamers will be aiming to promote Taiwanese basketball through the ABL and will play all their home games in Changhua City in Taiwan. The Nanhai Long Lions are reportedly the farm team of the Guanzhou Long Lions of the CBA. With good backing, expect this team to be competitive and contend for the championship.
3. Return of the Vampire
After a year of absence, Mono Vampire of Thailand will be returning back to the ABL. Arguably the best domestic team in Thailand, the TBL and TBSL champs will parade an experienced team that is mostly made up of national players that have gained loads of experience playing for their country during the past year while winning championships in domestic leagues.
ABL fans will also finally get to see the team compete on their new home floor, MONO 29 stadium, after failing to play during their previous stint in the ABL.
4. It’s Now Hotter in Saigon
After three straight semi-finals appearances in the last three seasons, the Heat will be looking to get over the hump and finally contend for a championship in 2017-2018. Management elected to part ways with long-time Head Coach Tony Garbelotto during the offseason, hiring Kyle Julius in his place to lead the team.
Julius is one of the best bench tacticians in Canada, having led the London Lightning to two straight final appearances and a championship. He also led 3D Global Sports Canada to the 39th William Jones Cup championship, 21 years after a team from the country last won the Jones Cup.
Will Kyle Julius be the man to set the Heat up for a championship run this season?
5. Long Lions No More
Hong Kong Eastern may have adjusted its team name but still remain the team to beat this season. The 2016-2017 champions started their defense of the crown by signing a key player in Christian Standhardinger after the departure of ex-NBA big man, Josh Boone.
Stanhardinger, a mainstay of the Philippines national basketball team will definitely be a big addition to the team with his experience and proven skills. Expected to be back for the team is reigning World Import MVP Marcus Elliot and reigning ASEAN heritage MVP Tyler Lamb.
6. The “Originals” Are Here to Stay
With all the talk about the new teams coming in, don’t count out the two remaining teams that founded the league in 2009, Westports Malaysia Dragons and the Singapore Slingers. Bolstered by two straight finals appearances, the Slingers will expect no less than the championship this season.
Xavier Alexander will be back for his third straight tour of duty, hoping to get over the hump and finally get that elusive chip. He will have a new word import partner in Ryan Wright, a young, energetic player possessing serious bounce that should make an impact on the Slingers’ campaign this season.
On the other hand, the Malaysia Dragons will try to improve on a very disappointing performance from the prior season. Just a year after winning the ABL championship, the Dragons failed to qualify for the playoffs, much to the disappointment of Malaysian fans.
With a year of experience under his belt, Head Coach Chris Thomas will definitely have his hands full in trying to make the Dragons a contender again and having the team compete for the championship.
7. Ray Parks’ Last ABL Hurrah?
This could be the last season of Bobby ‘Ray’ Parks Jr. in the ABL. The current reigning ABL local MVP is expected to throw his name into the PBA draft pool next year. Fans should watch out as Parks will be looking to leave a mark in what could be his last season playing in the league. A championship, no less, will be in his radar this season.
8. Legends Are Coming
Yes, Jimmy Alapag is coming to the ABL. The former Gilas team captain will be patrolling the Alab Pilipinas sideline for the upcoming season. The passion and leadership that he brings will finally be seen in the ABL, albeit, in a different role.
Nonetheless, a legend like Alapag should be a great addition in the league. Alab Pilipinas is also bringing veteran former PBA players like Dondon Hontiveros and Rico Maierhofer to augment an already stacked Filipino side.
Another legend who is expected to come back is Mario Wuysang. The former ABL local MVP is fresh off helping the Indonesian National Basketball team to a silver medal finish at the 2017 SEA games. It is expected that he will be a part of the CLS Knights roster, his domestic team.