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Hayden Blankley reflects on ‘fun atmosphere’ in Manila return with New Taipei

Hayden Blankley experienced it all over again.

The Australian winger couldn’t be any happier to have played before the Filipino fans once more as New Taipei faced Meralco in the 2023-24 East Asia Super League (WASL) wars at the Philsports Arena in Pasig, Wednesday night.

“I missed the Philippines,” he said shortly after their 89-77 win.

It was his first trip back to the country in about a year, or since the previous PBA season. He and Bay Area competed in the 2022-23 Commissioner’s Cup, which saw the guest team from Hong Kong make it all the way to the Finals.

The Dragons were supposed to run it back in Asia’s pioneering pro league but the EASL’s house team was suddenly disbanded last September, with all the players and coaches notified through an online meeting.

But as fate would have it, Blankley got another opportunity to still be part of the pan-regional league after joining the Kings, and soon found himself back in Manila — and in the venue where he had one of his finest moments as a pro.

EASL-Hayden-Blankley-0855 Hayden Blankley reflects on 'fun atmosphere' in Manila return with New Taipei Basketball EASL News  - philippine sports newsIt could be remembered that the Sydney native erupted for 47 points on 10 three-pointers to lead the Dragons’ 126-96 demolition of Rain or Shine in the Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals last December 11, 2022.

There wasn’t any encore of that performance on Wednesday but that didn’t matter to him at all, simply grateful to have hooped in a ‘fun atmosphere’ again similar to the ones he had during Bay Area’s PBA campaign.

Blankley sure knows a thing or two about playing before an enthusiastic crowd, having experienced as much most especially during the Commissioner’s Cup Finals against eventual champions Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.

#ReadMore  EASL cites 'conflict of interest' as reason for Bay Area disbandment

A record 54,589 fans watched Game 7 at the Philippine Arena.

“I was very excited for this game, returning to play in the Philippines,” said the 23-year-old, who had seven points in the win versus Meralco that stretched New Taipei’s unbeaten streak to three to stay on top of Group B.

“The crowd was just into it all game. They’ll support both teams .. they’re just high-energy,” added Blankley.

“It’s just a fun atmosphere to play in.”

Written By

Oftentimes on the sidelines. Forever a student of the game. Morayta-bred.

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