ALAB Pilipinas coach Mac Cuan can attest that Southeast Asia basketball has improved by leaps and bounds after seeing the competition first hand in his rookie year as Alab Pilipinas head coach in the Asean Basketball League (ABL).
Cuan said locals from other Southeast Asian nations have improved a lot from the time he was an assistant coach of San Miguel four years ago to this year when he took over the Alab coaching job.
The ABL played a big role in the improvement, Cuan said.
“Definitely, nag-improve lahat,” said the former La Salle guard. “Malaki ang nagawa ng ABL sa kanila. Talagang nag-grow sila. Hindi na rin natin sila puwedeng biruin.”
Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions and the Singapore Slingers will battle it out for the title this year in a league that was once dominated by Philippine ballclubs.
The best-of-five finals begins on Saturday.
Alab Pilipinas, on the other hand, had to settle for third place after the team bowed to Singapore via sweep of their best-of-three semifinal series. The Slingers beat Alab at home, 82-64, in Game Two last week.
Cuan still believes Filipinos are still better than the locals of other countries. But what gave other teams the edge is their imports, he added.
That became evident during the semifinal series against Singapore where Xavier Alexander and Justin Howard put up consistent double-double numbers, Cuan said.
“I still feel we can compete with them. Kahit papaano, ‘yung locals natin, angat pa rin. It’s just tough matching up with two consistent imports. Every team we play, mabigat ang mga imports,” said Cuan.
Despite the early playoff exit, Cuan said he eas proud of the effort of the entire team.
“All we had to do is to compete. Para na nga akong sirang plaka na it was all about consistent effort. Lalaro kami ng maayos, maya-maya magre-relax kami. Pero kahit ganun ang nangyari, we still had a chance.
“I’m proud of the guys. With all the limitations, we were still there. Sabi ko lang din sa kanila, kung ano ‘yung game namin (in Game Two), ‘yun ang story ng season namin,” Cuan said.