Westports Malaysia Dragons to play in FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2016

As defending champions of the ASEAN Basketball League, the Westports Malaysia Dragons will represent the South East Asian region in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup.

The FIBA Asia Champions Cup is a competition held by FIBA Asia and this year’s tournament will be the 25th rendition. Ten teams will battle it out during the course of eleven days from 8-18 October in Chenzhou-Hunan, China to determine the strongest basketball club in Asia.

There will be no shortage of star power and big names strutting their talents in Chenzhou. Seasoned vets like Lebanese Fadi El Khatib or Taiwanese Naturalized player Quincy Davis are going to be playing for their respective clubs. Up and coming Asian names like Vishesh Briguvanshi (India), Amritpal Singh (India), and Mohammed Al-Khafahi (Iraq) will also be playing as well. The main core of the FIBA Asia Challenge 2016 champions (Iran) are also playing for their clubs, namely Mohammad Jamshadi, Behnam Yakchali, and Oshin Sahakian. There will even be some NBA talents in the mix with Andrey Blatche and Zhou Qi playing for the home team, the China Kashgar.

This year marks the return of the ASEAN Basketball League representation in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup since 2011. Coincidentally, it was also the Dragons who represented the ABL in that year. Even sharpshooting Loh Shee Fai, who scored 11.5 points on 58.8% three point shooting, wasn’t enough to keep the Dragons from a winless 0-4 record in that tournament.

Come this year, they hope to walk away with a better outcome.

While the Dragons will be without their 4 imports (Reggie Johnson, Calvin Godfrey, Jason Brickman, and Matthew Wright) from their past ABL championship campaign, they will still be fielding a similar core of Malaysian local players. Kuek Tian Yuan, Ma Chee Khuen, Wong Yi Hou, and Choo Wei Hong have been busy all summer playing both for the Malaysian National Team and the Dragons in various tournaments. Yi Hou and Tian Yuan have specifically been showing promising strides of improvement so far. Aforementioned Shee Fai is also going to be returning in a Dragons uniform for this tournament as well.

The FIBA Asia Champions Cup allows teams to sign 2 imports for this tournament. Reinforcing the Dragons will be American Imports Joel Wright and Skylar Spencer. They will not be the only new faces, as Coach Chris Thomas will be replacing Coach Ariel Vanguardia this season and will be leading the way in China.

Spencer (Left), Wright (Right)
Spencer (Left), Wright (Right), Coach Thomas (Sitting), Photo via FIBA

Both Coach Thomas and Wright got their chances to experience the Dragons’ system when in the Merlion Cup at Singapore earlier in September. Spencer was also in Singapore for the tournament, but didn’t get to make his debut so far. Both players will provide size and length inside for a Dragons team that is currently heavy on the wing.

The Dragons are grouped in Group B along with Al Shorta (Iraq), Barsy Atyrau (Kazakhstan), Al Ahli (UAE), and China Kashgar (China). If the Dragons finish in the top four standings of their group, they will move on to play in the knockout stage of the tournament. Here’s the schedule for each of the Dragons’ games:

3:00 PM Sunday, October 9 : Malaysia Dragons vs. Al Shorta (Iraq)
3:00 PM Monday, October 10 : Malaysia Dragons vs. Al Ahli (UAE)
8:00 PM Tuesday, October 11 : Malaysia Dragons vs. Barsy Atyrau (Kazakhstan)
8:00 PM Wednesday, October 12 : Malaysia Dragons vs. China Kashgar (China)