Alab Pilipinas has been impressive with its tune-up games but head coach Jimmy Alapag knows it will be a different battle in the Asean Basketball League (ABL) season, which kicks off on November 17.
Alapag, 39, is expecting a tough season with his team beginning its campaign against defending champion Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions on November 19 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
“Our opponents are strong this season especially Hong Kong. Not only as they are the defending champion but they also added Christian (Standhardinger), then they have Tyler Lamb and last year’s Finals MVP Marcus Elliot,” Alapag said. “So we have to continue improving and be ready.”
Alab started its practice last October 1 and won all the three tune-up games against National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) finalists Lyceum of the Philippines University and San Beda College and Gilas Pilipinas.
Alapag said those wins are morale-booster to the team with only a week left before their game against Hong Kong.
“It is a huge confidence builder for our guys. I think it was a great test for us with a week away from the opener. We can definitely build confidence from this and hopefully continue as we prepare for this coming week,” added Alapag, whose team will be reinforced by former TNT import Ivan Johnson and Reggie Okosa.
Veteran Dondon Hontiveros, the oldest Alab player at 40, echoed Alapag’s sentiments.
“Any victory gives confidence to the team and players. At the same time, we have a better showing in our practices although I believe that ABL is going to be competitive now because all the Southeast Asian teams have improved a lot,” said Hontiveros.
Aside from the Cebuano streak shooter, former PBA players Rico Maierhofer, Pamboy Raymundo and Josh Urbiztondo are also in Alab’s roster.
Alapag will also bank on last year’s MVP Bobby Ray Parks, Lawrence Domingo, Paolo Javelona, Rob Celiz and Chris Sumalinog.
The eighth season of ABL formally kicks off on November 17 with Nanhai Kung Fu battling Singapore Slingers at the Nanhai Gymnasium in China, followed by the game between CLS Knights and Formasa Dreamers at the CLS Kertajaya in Surabaya in Indonesia on November 18.