Faster, bigger: Alab Pilipinas raring to start ABL title defense
MANILA, Philippines – The 9th ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) is ready to kick off on Friday, November 16, and defending champion San Miguel Alab Pilipinas is more than ready to defend its crown on home turf and beyond.
And this time, the best just got better.
Two-time reigning local MVP Ray Parks is set to return with the squad along with Defensive Player of the Year and former NBA player Renaldo Balkman. PJ Ramos, the monstrous 7-foot-3 former PBA import of the Kia Picanto (now Columbian Dyip), is set to replace fan favorite reinforcement Justin Brownlee while he performs his duties with title-hunting Ginebra San Miguel.
Reigning 2x Asean Basketball League Local MVP @ray1parks and Defensive Player of the Year @R_Balkman32 back to defend the crown for San Miguel Alab Pilipinas!— JR Isaga (@JRnalistic) October 16, 2018
ABL 2018-2019 Season Launch presscon to start shortly. @RapplerSports pic.twitter.com/gO62kftpUN
Also joining the team are former Chong Son Kung Fu Fil-Am import Caelen Tiongson and former De La Salle University standout Prince Rivero, who is currently Parks’ teammate in the MPBL.
Head coach and PBA legend Jimmy Alapag is more than excited at the prospect of adding one more title in just his second year on the sidelines. (Rappler Talk Sports: Jimmy Alapag on Alab Pilipinas’ ABL championship romp)
“I’m excited. It’s always better to come into a season as a defending champion as opposed to the team trying to win it,” he said at the ABL season launch presser in Pasay. “Like everyone said during the meeting with the owners and managers, there’s never been a team to win back-to-back, so that’s our goal.”
No Brownlee, no problem
This year, the “Mighty Mouse” is leaning on the shoulders of giants as Ramos provides them with a legitimate big man presence down low to counter feared adversaries like the 7-foot-5 Sam Deguara.
“Really excited with the guys we have. As you guys saw, you can’t miss one of our imports now,” he said with a smile. “I think having PJ [Ramos] here gives us a different dynamic in comparison to last year with Justin. Really happy with our new guys, with Prince [Rivero], Ethan [Alvano] and with Caelan [Tiongson]. I think they give us a lot more versatility in comparison to last season.”
However, despite a new league rule allowing teams to add three World Imports instead of the usual two, Alapag said that he has no intention yet to bring back Brownlee in Alab colors, stating that the fan favorite already has too much on his plate as it is.
“Right now, we’re staying with [Renaldo] Balkman and PJ. I know a lot of people’s asked about Justin but as you guys know, I’m expecting another deep run with Ginebra,” he said. “I don’t even wanna bother him with that. I think it would be bad on my part as a coach to try to ask Justin if he’s gonna play with us after the PBA season.
“He’s just coming off a championship last [Commissioners’ Cup] conference and again, I’m anticipating another deep run this [Governors’ Cup] conference so I don’t wanna add that to his responsibilities,” he continued. “I wanna let him be Justin for Ginebra.”
Still, the newbie tactician is contented with his squad, and has been impressed with their speed and athleticism overall.
“It’s just that young energy. They bring a different type of energy into practice,” he said. “We can slow it down if we need to but we can also still get up and down the court which I thought was really big for us last year.”
Legendary coaching staff
Apart from a stacked roster on the court, Alab is now also boasting a legendary lineup on the sidelines, with Ginebra legend Eric Menk joining Alapag and San Miguel superstar Danny Seigle as an assistant coach. Throughout their playing careers in the PBA, the three legends have amassed a total of 18 championships and 9 Finals MVP trophies among them.
“What a lot of people don’t know is he’s a great basketball mind,” Alapag said of his former on-court adversary. “He’s very, very knowledgeable about the game and I think his ability to not just work with our big guys but really our entire team and share his experience and what he knows about the game. I feel as a coach, you can never have enough great basketball minds around.”
Alab Pilipinas will play its first game on Sunday, December 9 against CLS Knights Indonesia at the Santa Rosa Sports Complex in Laguna. The league is also planning to host Alab home games in Caloocan, Davao and Cebu down the road. – Rappler.com