The journey continues for Filipino-Canadian AJ Mandani, as he is set to be the next great Singapore Slingers’ floor general in this upcoming ASEAN Basketball League season.
The Slingers have featured talented Heritage Imports in the past from Josh Urbiztondo to Kris Rosales to Al Vergara who have led them to great success. AJ Mandani is next in line to lead the Slingers in hope of taking the team further than his predecessors had done.
Mandani was a second round pick in the 2012 Philippines Basketball Association (PBA) Draft, a class which also featured other former ABL players like Junemar Fajardo, Aldrech Ramos, Jason Deutchmann, Karl Dehesa, and Jerick Canada. Since then, he’s enjoyed stints with several teams in the PBA as well as in the Thailand Basketball League (TBL). Now as a grizzled veteran at the age of 30-years old, Mandani is ready to take on the challenge of the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL).
“AJ is a veteran who understands the game,” says Michael Johnson, General Manager of the Singapore Slingers. “He has really fitted in well. He has done everything we have asked of him and he seems to be a very humble and good person. We like what we see so far from AJ.”
Johnson also mentions how impressed he is that Mandani has quickly picked up the offense and fit in with the group. Chemistry has always been one of the Slingers’ strengths and if Mandani clicks on with the team early in the season, they can make a long run into the post season.
“The practices have been very intense,” Mandani says of the start with his new team. “We work really hard and we have high expectations for our upcoming season, so we’re just trying to get better everyday.”
“We set the bar high, go hard during training, and do not want to settle. That’s the culture I love to be around as well. The team’s vibes have been very upbeat. The coaches have done a good job having everyone locked in and focused on the goals set ahead.”
After another successful season that saw the Slingers advancing all the way to the Finals, the team is expecting some adjustment with the personnel changes going on. Mandani is going to be a key piece to making the process as smooth as possible. Not only will the Slingers have to adjust to life without Justin Howard, they will also have to fill up the void left by two-time Local MVP Wong Wei Long who has not been signed for this season.
“With Wei Long not playing this season, AJ will pair with JY [Jun Yuan Lim] to give us a new-look backcourt,” Johnson says. “We are looking for better defense from our PG position this season and we feel from what we have seen so far that both AJ and JY will help.”
“First and foremost, any new players [on our team] need to play good individual and team defense if they want to get minutes here. AJ has already shown us he can run the offence and understands what is expected of him.”
Mandani says that on a defensive team like the Slingers, he feels like he can help by being a high energy guy on both ends of the court.
“On defense, I can disrupt the opponent which leads to running out on the other end.” Mandani explains. “On offense, I am able to change tempo, push in transition, and keep the defenders on their heels.”
While a supporting role is expected from Mandani on this Slingers team, they are also expecting him to be able to carry some of the offensive load as well.
“AJ has the ability to push the ball up and make good decisions on the run. He can penetrate and finish and he has also shown the ability to knock down the open shot.” Johnson adds on his expectations for his lone Heritage Import.
At the very least, Slingers fans can be assured that Mandani is ready to pour his heart and soul out every time he gets on the court.
“Fans can expect a lot of energy. We will be a hungry and exciting Slingers team this season. We all want to give 110% every night until we successfully reach our goal: winning a championship!!” Mandani enthusiastically says.
“I enjoy just being able to flat out compete. Having the God-given ability to go out and play the game I have loved since I was a kid is just a blessing.”
“So why not pay my respect by going out and giving it my all to compete at a high level everyday?”