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Tiebreaker Times


Meet this season’s ABL exports

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)

Gilas-Practice-2017-Jones-Cup-Christian-Standhardinger Meet this season's ABL exports ABL Basketball News  - philippine sports news

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.

#ReadMore  Christian Standhardinger takes back seat as Hong Kong teammates make history

Jason Brickman (Mono Vampire Basketball Club)

maxresdefault Meet this season's ABL exports ABL Basketball News  - philippine sports news

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)

PBA-D-League-Cafe-France-vs.-Phoenix-Zamar-5092 Meet this season's ABL exports ABL Basketball News  - philippine sports news

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.

#ReadMore  Yeng Guiao looking to pick either Kiefer Ravena, Christian Standhardinger in Draft

But for Zamar, this upcoming ABL campaign means more than just a tour of duty. In an interview with Reuben Terrado of, 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)

2017-PBA-DLeague-Foundation-Cup-Cignal-def-Batangas-James-Forrester Meet this season's ABL exports ABL Basketball News  - philippine sports news

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)

PBA-Comm-Cup-2016-MER-BW-Reil-Cervantes Meet this season's ABL exports ABL Basketball News  - philippine sports news

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.

#ReadMore  Renaldo Balkman warns Ginebra: 'They gotta stop leaving Chris Ross open'

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.

Written By

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

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