The eighth season of the ASEAN Basketball League is just a day away from raising its curtains, which means that the Southeast Asian region — and even the Far East — will become busier and louder once more.
But aside from the festive mood that the regional league brings, it means more than that, especially to the athletes. In the ABL’s eighth serving, this season brings a sense of revival, sustenance, and start-ups to a handful of the players.
Those cagers? The Filipino ones playing for the other ABL squads. Or as they might be called:the Exports. So Tiebreaker Times took a peek at who those players are and which team are they suiting up for, and of course their interesting backstories.
Christian Standhardinger (Hong Kong Eastern Sports Club)
The rich got richer in the ABL, as defending champions Hong Kong Eastern Sports Club tapped the number one overall pick in the 2017 PBA Draft, Christian Standhardinger.
Standhardinger, 28, averaged 11.8 points and 7.4 rebounds in nine games during his Gilas debut during the 2017 Jones Cup. The 6-foot-8 big man then raised his norms to 15.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in the FIBA Asia Cup.
But even if he is already being paid by the San Miguel Beermen, the Filipino-German’s main focus is to return the championship back to Hong Kong.
“Right now, I’m focused on winning the ABL championship,” he said.
AJ Mandani (Singapore Slingers)
It has been a while since AJ Mandani stepped on a Filipino basketball court. The Fil-Canadian point guard, who was the 14th pick by Globalport Batang Pier the 2012 PBA Draft, last played for the Mahindra Enforcers (now the Kia Picanto) — also in the PBA — back in 2016. After that, he became a fixture in Thailand, playing in the country’s pro leagues for a good span of months.
Now the 30-year-old has flown down south and taken his talents to Singapore to sign with the Slingers as its lone Heritage Import, replacing Josh Urbiztondo. His addition to a team that boasts of World Imports Xavier Alexander and Ryan Wright, along with the core of Singapore’s national squad, has made them a favorite to make it all the way to the Finals for the third straight time.
Jason Brickman (Mono Vampire Basketball Club)
A Filipino-American point guard who’d made waves in the NCAA Division I with Long Island back in 2013, Jason Brickman has somehow become a mystery, especially in Filipino basketball. It can be remembered that he made himself eligible and got picked in the 2016 PBA D-League Draft by Tanduay Rhum Masters, but until now, he has yet to grace the Philippines’ courts.
But as much as he is a mystery here, he’s already a proven commodity, and had found his calling as a sought-after journeyman in the region. He’s had stints with Westports Malaysia Dragons back in 2015-2016, where he steered the team to the ABL crown and won the Finals MVP plum; and with Mighty Sports-Philippines in three separate tournaments overseas.
The 25-year-old will now go back to where his Asian career started, with the also-returning Mono Vampire BC of Thailand. The six-foot floor general signed with them back in 2016, and served as a key member of the storied Thai ball club in the 2017 FIBA Asia Champions Cup last September in Chenzhou, China, where they finished sixth out of 10 teams.
Paul Zamar (Mono Vampire Basketball Club)
One of the finest UE Red Warriors, Paul Zamar’s basketball experience has always been coveted not just by D-League teams, but teams in the region as well. After a run with Mono Thewpaingarm in the Thailand league months ago where he dropped 52 points in a game, he will now deliver the goods for Mono Vampire BC’s backcourt along with the aforementioned Brickman.
But for Zamar, this upcoming ABL campaign means more than just a tour of duty. In an interview with Reuben Terrado of Spin.ph, the 29-year-old second-generation cager is planning to utilize this stint as a return trip to the PBA, where he had been a fourth-round pick by the famed Barangay Ginebra San Miguel back in the 2012 Draft.
“I’m still not giving up my PBA dreams,” Zamar said. “Hopefully, ma-replicate ko or ma-exceed ko pa ‘yung pinakita ko sa TBSL and TBL para makuha ko ang attention ng mga PBA teams (Hopefully, I can replicate or even exceed what I showed in the TBSL and TBL to get the attention of the PBA teams).”
James Forrester (Formosa Dreamers)
Hailed for being a “perfect basketball specimen” by officials of his former club team Globalport Batang Pier after playing for Globalport in the last PBA season, it was puzzling to see James Forrester become a basketball journeyman, considering that he was picked as high as fourth overall back in the 2013 PBA Draft, by none other the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.
After roaming the Filipino pro league by playing for six teams in just four years, the high-flying 28-year-old from Toronto, Canada has now flown to Taiwan to reinforce neophyte club team Formosa Dreamers — the team that replaced last year’s cellar-dwellers Kaohsiung Truth as the Taiwanese representative in the league.
The Arellano University standout will play for the Dreamers along with former NBA D-Leaguer Arron Mollet and University of Oregon standout Wave Austin.
Reil Cervantes (Westsports Malaysia Dragons)
A six-year PBA pro, Reil Cervantes was last seen playing for the Blackwater Elite back in the 42nd season of the PBA.
Cervantes, 31, played sparingly during that season, posting norms of 5.4 points and 1.4 rebounds. Together with Patrick Cabahug, the two will look to bring the Westsports Malaysia Dragons back to the post-season.
Patrick Cabahug (Westsports Malaysia Dragons)
Just like Cervantes, Cabahug was drafted back in the 2008 PBA Draft.
However, during the last two years, the former Adamson Soaring Falcon made the rounds in the Southeast Asian basketball circuit.
During the 2015-16 season of the ABL, Cabahug played for the Hi-Tech Bangkok City during their playoff campaign. A year later, he played for Mono Thewphaingarm in the Thailand Basketball Super League.
Caelan Tiongson and Jonathan Bermillo (Kung Fu Nanhai Basketball Club)
Of all the Exports mentioned, or even those about to be signed as the season will progress, Caelan Tiongson and Jonathan Bermillo are the least known.
Even Tiongson is fully aware that he will be coming into the season as a no-namer. This will actually be his first-ever pro stint, so technically, he is a rookie, but the Filipino-American born and raised in California will serve as the Heritage Import of new ABL club team Nanhai Kung Fu Basketball Club of China.
It may be an uphill battle of proving himself in the pro ranks, but his college career with Biola University in the US could be a good basis of what he can bring to the table. In his senior year with the Eagles, the six-foot-four forward averaged notable numbers of 13.2 points and 6.2 rebounds, according to the ABL’s official website.
“Caelan is the perfect compliment player to (World Imports) Justin [Howard] and Anthony [Tucker],” proudly said Nanhai’s general manager Lukas Peng, through an interview with the ABL. “He is someone that does the little things that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet and just helps you win games.”
Bermillo, on the other hand, is a six-foot Filipino-Canadian point guard. He averaged 9.8 points in his senior year with Bishop’s University, winning the Most Valuable Player crown during the 2015-16 season of the Canadian collegiate season.
Blistering Mikey Williams takes home Heritage Import of the Week honor
The resurgent Saigon Heat have been the thorn to topflight clubs teams Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Club and Nanhai Kung Fu, handing both squads their first losses in the eighth season of the ASEAN Basketball League. The Heat would not have done it without Filipino-American import Mikey Williams.
Williams, a 6-foot-2 guard out of Cal State Fullerton, dropped 39 points on 14-for-25 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and nine assists in Saigon’s 121-115 overtime win over Hong Kong.
The former NBA G-Leaguer followed it up with a sensational 24-point, five-rebound, and seven-assist outing in their 96-93 win over Kung Fu.
Overall, the 26-year-old guard averaged 31.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, and 1.0 steals to edge out fellow Filipino AJ Mandani of the Singapore Slingers for the weekly award.
For the Local Player of the Week, two Alab Pilipinas stalwarts were the runners-up for the crown.
Reigning local Most Valuable Player Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. and his floor general Josh Urbiztondo had stellar weeks that earned them honorable mentions.
Urbiztondo, on the other hand, had norms of 14.5 points on a hot 9-for-17 clip from downtown.
Ray Parks, Josh Urbiztondo torch Mono, lead Alab to bounce back win
Coming off a frustrating home loss to the Singapore Slingers last Wednesday, skipper Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. and Tanduay Alab Pilipinas vented their ire with a huge statement win at the expense of the streaking Mono Vampire Basketball Club, 114-87, Sunday evening at Stadium 29 in Bangkok, Thailand.
The win lifted Alab’s slate to an even 4-4, a full game behind the fourth-running Saigon Heat. Moreover, Alab was able to snap Mono’s three game winning streak.
After scoring 16 points in their 80-90 loss to the Slingers, Parks, Jr. was able to follow it up with a sensational 19 point outing. The reigning Local Most Valuable Player added seven rebounds, six assists, and a block to his statline.
The second generation cager provided the spark in the opening frame, scoring 10 points in the opening frame to give the road team a strong start.
Josh Urbiztondo followed it up in the second frame, dropping nine points in the second quarter. He finished the game with 17 markers, spiked by five triples.
Alab never looked back, leading by as much as 33 points, 104-71, after a Justin Brownlee bucket with 6:58 left.
Brownlee flirted with a triple-double, tallying a game-high 29 points to go along with eight rebounds and nine assists. Fellow World Import Renaldo Balkman had an efficent outing with 14 points on 7-for-11 shooting, seven rebounds, and five assists in just 23 minutes of game time.
As a team, Alab knocked down 14 triples with the troika of Parks, Urbiztondo, and Brownlee combining for 11.
Filipino export Paul Zamar paced Mono with 20 points on 6-for-11 shooting. The same could not be said for Filipino-American Jason Brickman, as he played his worst outing so far, ending the game with just seven points and a personal-low of three assists.
Former Mighty Sports-Philippines player Mike Singletary had 24 points on 22 attempts and 11 rebounds.
Alab will visit Indonesia for the first time this season on Saturday, January 20, to take on the CLS Knights.
Tanduay Alab 114 — Brownlee 29, Parks 19, Urbiztondo 17, Balkman 14, Raymundo 10, Maierhofer 7, Javelona 6, Alabanza 4, Domingo 4, Celiz 2, Hontiveros 2, Sumalinog 0.
Mono 87 — Singletary 24, Zamar 20, Deguara 17, Brickman 7, Boonyai 5, Ananti 4, Chanthachon 3, Apiromvilaichai 2, Khukhandhin 2, Phuangla 2, Samerjai 1, Kruatiwa 0.
Quarterscores: 32-22, 54-37, 88-62, 114-87.
Joshua Munzon picks up first win since returning to Westsports
It took three games before Joshua Munzon picked up his first win in his second stint with the Westsports Malaysia Dragons
The Dragons snapped their four-game losing streak after hammering the struggling Formosa Dreamers, 84-74, Sunday afternoon at the MABA Stadium in Malaysia.
Munzon, who returned to Westsports Malaysia last January 3, finished with 17 points, six rebounds, and four assists. Moreover, the title-holder for most steals in a season was able to force five turnovers in the contest in 37 minutes of action.
The 22-year-old averaged 26.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists prior to this game.
As he struggled from the field in the final frame, the versatile Filipino-American forward did the little things to help Westsports pull away late.
A three-pointer Marcus Marshall with 7:19 left proved to be the go-ahead bucket for Westsports. The Dragons led by as much as 10 points, 69-59, in the contest.
Behind Lenny Williams and the debuting Ronnie Aguilar, Formosa was able to slice the lead to as low as three points, 75-71, with 1:07 remaining. Free throws by AJ West and Marshall in the end game however held off the Dreamers.
With the win, Westsports raised their slate to 2-4. Formosa dropped to 1-7.
Mikey Williams outduels Mikh McKinney as Saigon ends another streak
It looks like there’s a new powerhouse on the rise
Ever since they tapped Filipino-American Mikey Williams, the Saigon Heat ended two undefeated runs in the ASEAN Basketball League. After the Heat ended Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Club’s unbeaten run, they took down Chongson Kung Fu Basketball Club, 96-93, Saturday night at home in CIS Arena in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Their win over Kung Fu serves as a perfect follow-up to their impressive showing against another previously-unbeaten team in Hong Kong Eastern, 121-115, last Tuesday at the Southorn Stadium in Wanchai City.
The foreign reinforcements continue to deliver the goods for the now-4-2 Saigon.
Williams had 24 points, five boards, and seven dimes, while World Import Maxie Esho top-billed with 35 points and 12 rebounds.
The neophyte Chinese ball club had actually been on the cusp of maintaining their win-loss slate intact after World Import Anthony Tucker swished in a three-pointer to put his team up, 93-92, with just 21 seconds remaining.
But Saigon displayed more will and did not show any sign of crumbling. Moses Morgan hit a jumper with 18 ticks left, and Akeem Scott scored off a lay-up moments later to put the Heat up three with 14 seconds left to play.
Kung Fu tried to save their immaculate record, but Fil-Am cager Mikh McKinney’s shot missed and sealed the deal for Saigon.
Scott finished with 16 points for the storied Vietnamese ball club, who had another impressive offensive night, as they made 52 percent of their shots from the floor. David Viet Arnold supplied 11 markers and six caroms.
Fil-Am Caelan Tiongson led Chongson with 23 points on 58 percent shooting and seven rebounds in a losing effort. Tucker and Justin Howard finished with 22 points each and combined for 24 of the team’s 40 boards.
McKinney rounded up Kung Fu’s scoring leaders with 20 markers on 15 shots.
Chongson dropped to 4-1.