Malaysia Dragons coach relishing tougher challenge in ABL as Mindanao Aguilas enter the fray
Ariel Vanguardia, hoping to improve on the Dragons' runner-up finish, says he welcomes the tough challenge from the Agilas. Jerome Ascano 

THE arrival of a new Philippine-based team is a welcome development for the Asean Basketball League even if could mean tough times for other teams in the regional club competition, according to Malaysia Dragons head coach Ariel Vanguardia.

The Pacman Mindanao Aguilas will be joining the ABL, which last year held a tournament without a Philippine club.

“It’s a great boost to the league to have a Philippine team,” Vanguardia told on Wednesday. “Everybody knows the Philippines is the best in the region. It’s a good boost to the league that the Philippines is back.”

The team backed by Filipino boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao vowed to sign players from Mindanao to give them exposure in high-level basketball.

[See Manny Pacquiao-backed Mindanao Aguilas is new Philippine team in ABL]

The San Miguel Beermen decided not to field a team after winning the 2013 crown. Hi-Tech Bangkok captured the 2014 ABL crown, defeating the Dragons in the finals.

Vanguardia, hoping to improve on the runner-up finish last year, is also looking forward to a more challenging tournament starting in October.

“Of course, it’s always better to have better competition. It’s good for the players to have good competition. It’s just that it will be harder, greater challenge to enter the finals again,” said Vanguardia, also an assistant coach at Blackwater Elite in the PBA.

Vanguardia said the Dragons have yet to prepare for the coming ABL season since most of his players are suiting up for the Malaysian national team in the Fiba-Asia Championship in Changsha, China.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @reubensports