Back-up has Arrived: Strong Start for the Newest Members of Alab Pilipinas

It has been an adjustment process for Alab Pilipinas so far in this ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) tournament. Despite being in 3rd place so far this season, all of Alab’s victories have come at the expense of fellow newcomer team Kaohsiung Truth. 

With a 2-2 record when the calendar was about to flip to 2017, the team decided to make it’s move, signing new World Imports James Hughes and Sampson Carter. They replaced Korean brothers Seung Jun Lee and Don Jung Lee, players who put up decent numbers during their stint with the squad. But it was clear that the team needed a little more if they wanted to compete with the contenders this season.

In their latest victory against the Truth, Alab gave a hint of what’s to come from their squad.

In Alab’s 86-77 win against the Truth, Sampson Carter had a sparkling debut, tallying 23 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 1 block. Hughes did most of his damage in the paint, finishing with a near double-double of 12 points and 9 rebounds.

The road to their first game in the ABL wasn’t easy for Carter and Hughes. It was the first time that the two had ever been to the Philippines, let alone Taiwan. And the two had to shrug off jet lag and fatigue traveling from America all the way to the Philippines, before making the trip to Taiwan. 

But the two were still able to deliver in the third victory of Alab. “It was a great experience,” Carter said. “I’m very excited to be part of the team. We have a very good team, very good chemistry. It’s only been a week since we got here. Just excited for the rest of the way.”

If it feels like Carter has instant chemistry with his teammates, that’s not an accident. Carter is very familiar with Alab star Ray Parks, owing to their days playing together in the same AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) team in Memphis. “I played with Ray when he was 14 and I was 16 so we have a good connection already,” Carter said. Aside from playing together in college, the two were also teammates in a NBA D-League training camp for the Westchester Knicks, the D-League affiliate of the New York Knicks.

Hughes on the other hand has to start from scratch in getting to know his new teammates and country. He has had an opportunity to play in Japan’s BJ League for two seasons. But according to Hughes, the ABL is a completely different story. “Philippines, Taiwan — it’s a different experience,” Hughes admitted. “The ABL is different from the leagues I’ve played for but basketball is basketball at the end of the day.”

Despite the win against Kaohsiung, Alab’s imports know that there’s a lot of work to be done. “We have to get better closing out games,” Carter said. “As everyone can see, we were up double-digits and they were able to get it down to single digits. It happened I think three times. We gave up the lead and we have to stop giving up the lead.”

“We have to start and finish the game strong,” Hughes said. “We got to be consistent for 40 minutes. But as a team we have to take it day-by-day, game-by-game. Just focus on the little things. Hone in on the good things and correct the mistakes.”

Though the Truth were able to storm back into the game in the final minutes, Alab was still able to take care of business and leave Taiwan with a victory. And despite the adjustment period that Hughes and Carter have to go through, there’s potential for great things from Alab Pilipinas moving forward.