A new coach known for his winning attitude and a pair of veterans who made a mark in the pro league put Alab Pilipinas at the forefront of the teams that can challenge the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions for the crown of the Asean Basketball League (ABL), which opens its eighth season on November 17.
Alab co-owner Charlie Dy said their goal is to reclaim the ABL title and he’s confident that Alab can get the job done.
“I think we are going to give Hong Kong a good fight for the title this season. I’m confident with the team this year, a lot of people are happy with our lineup,” said Dy during the media launch of the new ABL season on Tuesday at the Shangri-La Forth in Bonifacio Global City.
“Of course, our goal is to win the championship this year,” he added.
Jimmy Alapag took over from Mac Cuan, who remained with the team as assistant coach, as Alab added veteran players Dondon Hontiveros and Rico Maierhofer to fortify the squad.
Ivan Johnson, a temperamental import, and Regguie Okosa are tapped to be Alab’s import for the coming tournament.
The new ABL season will feature a league-high record of nine teams with newcomers Formosa Dreamers (Taiwan), Nanhai Long Lions (China), CLS Knights Indonesia and Mono Vampire Basketball Club (Thailand) suiting up for the first time.
Besides Alab and Hong Kong Eastern, which will be bannered by Filipino-German Christian Standhardinger, also seeing action are returnees Westports Malaysia Dragons, Singapore Slingers and Saigon Heat.
Alapag, who used to be the heart and soul of Gilas Pilipinas, and a many-time champion with the TNT KaTropa in the Philippine Basketball Association, said the addition of the 40-year old Hontiveros and Mairehofer would give them stability.
“Dondon is the classiest pro in the league and his influence is going to be huge on top of his ability as a basketball player,” said Alapag.
“We will work and prepare to give ourselves an opportunity to go for the championship. We will do everything,” he added.
The other members of Alab are current Most Valuable Player Bobby Ray Parks, Josh Urbiztondo, Cris Sumalinog, Pamboy Raymundo, Paolo Javelono, Robby Celiz and Lawrence Domingo.
Last season, Alab Pilipinas reached the semis in its ABL debut before losing to Singapore Slingers in the semifinals.
Meanwhile, Leo Avenido was given the ABL Lifetime Achievement Award during the launch. Avenido played 117 ABL games after stints with the Brunei Barracudas, Singapore Slingers, San Miguel and Saigon Heat.