New ABL season to feature 9 teams, Alab beef up roster

Nigel Chin
ABL chief operating officer Jericho Ilagan. Photo: ABL

The ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) will be making a huge stride forward in their eight-year existence with a record nine teams set to take part in the 2017-18 season.

Only six teams – from Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam – took part in the league last season, which ran from November 2016 to April 2017.

However, the league is set for bigger competition, with teams from China, Thailand and Indonesia set to take part too. Not only that, all nine teams have also signed on to compete for “multiple years”, according to the league’s Chief Operating Officer, Jericho Ilagan.

It is a move that is set to stabilise a league that has seen teams join and leave almost every year.

“That’s the commitment that they (the teams) have given us… we found partners that will honour that commitment,” Ilagan, 38, told Yahoo News Singapore at the season launch of the ABL held at the Shangri La Hotel in Manila, Philippines on Tuesday (17 Oct).

“We did our due diligence to ensure that it’s not just words, but that they are actually committing to us. We have signed agreements with them. We don’t want to fall into the same trap of trying to get six teams and just going one season. A minimum nine teams will come back next year.”

Five teams from the previous season – the Singapore Slingers, champions Hong Kong Eastern Sports Club (formerly known as the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions), Alab Pilipinas, Saigon Heat and Westport Malaysia Dragons – are returning.

They will be joined by Formosa Dreamers from Chinese Taipei, Indonesia’s CLS Knights, who are one of the oldest and most storied basketball franchise in Southeast Asia, as well as China’s Nanhai Long Lions, who are a development team for Chinese Basketball Association team Guangzhou Long Lions.

When asked if the ABL will be including teams from the other ASEAN countries that do not participate in the ABL, Ilagan said that it is still an ongoing process.

“We’ve looked at it, but I don’t think the other countries are ready at the moment. But we are working with national federations as well to see how the ABL can assist those federations…”

Alab Pilipinas snag former NBA player, overhaul roster

Alab Pilipinas is set to be one of the most stacked teams this year, having signed former NBA player Ivan Johnson as well as Filipino guard Josh Urbiztondo, who was part of the Singapore Slingers team that made the finals last season. 

Local MVP Bobby Ray Parks is also back in the team, although star point-guard Kiefer Ravena won’t be back as he has declared for the PBA draft. 

Local legend Jimmy Alapag, has also been signed as the new coach of the team. The new signings give owner Charlie Dy reasons to believe that the team is the biggest contender to upset defending champions Hong Kong Eastern Sports Club.

“I think we will give Hong Kong a good fight this season. It’s going to be exciting… just watch out for our games,” said Dy.  

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