CAELAN Tiongson will make his debut in the Philippines on Wednesday when the Chong Son Kung Fu battles Tanduay Alab Pilipinas in the Asean Basketball League (ABL).
The 25-year-old Biola University product has been impressive so far in the ABL season and is hopeful that local fans will accept him with open arms even though he is playing for a foreign club.
“I’m incredibly excited to play in the Philippines this week,” said Tiongson, whose father is Filipino and his mother American.
“Honestly, there are no fans quite as good as the Filipinos and I’m hoping they embrace me because I am more than ready to embrace them.”
The 6-foot-5 Tiongson is looking to build a name for himself and enters the match against Alab with averages of 14.2 points and 7.5 rebounds.
Chong Son is in second place with a 6-1 win-loss record behind the Christian Standhardinger-led Hong Kong Eastern at 9-1.
Tiongson said he started playing hockey at 13 but the sport “got too expensive” and he made the switch to basketball.
He went to Bonita High School in California and although he was not a standout, still made it to NCAA Division III school University of Laverne.
Tiongson was able to enroll at Utah Valley University and eventually suited up for Biola, where he became an All-Conference and All-American player.
In the 2015-2016 season, he earned a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (Naia) and Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) scholar-athlete recognition.
As captain in 2016, Tiongson led Biola to a 56-10 record.
“It was in high school that my coach instilled an attitude to work hard and never give up which is what I attribute to me making it this far,” said Tiongson.
Despite his impressive play in college, Tiongson was relatively off the radar of most pro teams before being tapped by Chong Son team manager Lukas Peng.
“He knew I was half-Filipino and reached out early in the summer. He seemed interested because he knew I was a versatile player and kept on me. I ended up signing because I was a relatively unknown in other countries,” said Tiongson.
This season is actually Tiongson’s pro debut and he is happy to learn the ropes with one of the top teams in the league.
“My stint in the ABL has been great so far. As a player, I am learning how to be professional and I’ve really started to grow confidence-wise. I’m excited to show people what I can really do moving forward.
“This is my first experience as a pro so it took some getting used to my first couple of games. One thing that has been constant from Day 1 has been my defensive ability. It’s nice to see that I can still be a defensive stopper at this level,” said Tiongson.