After relatively successful debut seasons for Hong Kong Eastern Sports Club and Alab Pilipinas, both teams are back for another round.
The two teams were a main part of the high level of interest generated last season in the ABL. Alab Pilipinas were supposed to be the savior for Philippines basketball in the ABL after a disappointing season from the MX3 Kings. Hong Kong Eastern Sports Club were a half of the first expansion teams outside of the ASEAN region for the league.
And they didn’t disappoint in bringing excitement and entertainment to the table.
Defending champions, Hong Kong Eastern Sports Club, will be returning to protect their title. Eastern barely showed any weaknesses throughout the entire season, finishing with a 16-4 record before winning it all in the playoffs.
“We’re glad that we had an opportunity to participate in the ABL last season,” Team Manager Mike Heung said. “Of course we are very happy and we were very lucky to win the title in the first season. It was a very tough season for us, especially since we had other local tournaments during ABL season.”
Despite the tough scheduling, the Eastern Sports Club made it look easy especially when they cruised through a 10-game winning streak. Their strong local core of Lee Ki, Fong Shing Yee, and Siu Wing Chan were led by 2016-2017 World Import MVP, Marcus Elliott, and 2016-2017 Heritage Import MVP, Tyler Lamb.
As cliche as it sounds, defending a title is as hard as winning one but the Eastern Sports Club are up for the challenge.
“Our goal will be the same as last season,” Heung says. “We’ll try our best. You can see there were a couple of games last season where we were down by many points but all the players didn’t give up and came back to win those games.
“I think our players are very tough, they respect the game, and they don’t give up. This is one of the things the fans will still get to see this coming season.”
Alab Pilipinas had one of the largest followings in the league with an already strong basketball fanbase in the country along with media coverage by ABS-CBN. Mixing in ABL veterans and 2016-2017 Local MVP Bobby Ray Parks, Alab Pilipinas finished the season with an 11-9 record and made the playoffs.
“Our first year in the ABL was a learning experience but I believe we made a big impact to the growing popularity of the league.” says Charlie Dy, General Manager of Alab Pilipinas.
“Our players benefitted and gained international exposure with our participation in the ABL.”
Fans should be prepared for changes in the upcoming follow-up season for Alab Pilipinas. Changes which hopefully can get them further than they did last season.
“We’re pretty much parading a new team but our fans will still see the same passion,” Dy adds. “We’ll surely bring more excitement this season with Coach Jimmy [Alapag] and our lineup.”
The two clubs will no longer have the element of surprise on their side when the upcoming ASEAN Basketball League tips off. Furthermore, they’ll both have a target on their backs as strong returning teams to beat from the previous season. With the league expanding to a larger amount of teams, there will be plenty more challenges for Alab Pilipinas and Eastern Sports Club to overcome.
But it’s a challenge they are going to be prepared for as they return to the play in ASEAN Basketball League this season.