WILL the Asean Basketball League (ABL) championship return to Manila or will another team backed by Filipino imports reign supreme in the fourth season of the fledgling league in the region?
Last year Indonesia benefited from the presence of three Filipinos in its lineup in Stanley Pringle, Jerick Canada, and Allan Salangsang as the Warriors beat the odds and stunned heavy favorite San Miguel Beermen to win their first-ever title.
Now as the new ABL season unfurls, a host of Filipinos are again suiting up for foreign teams in the hope of duplicating what the Warriors achieved last year.
A look at the official website of the league showed that 12 Filipinos are in the roster of the five other teams allowed to field three Asean imports as per ABL rules.
Former stalwarts of San Miguel have decided to sign up with other teams such as Froilan Baguion, who is again playing for the Chang Thailand Slammers, and Jun Jun Cabatu, now with the Singapore Slingers along with compatriot Don Dulay.
After playing with the Bangkok Cobras last year, Jai Reyes goes to Vietnam to play for the Saigon Heat, where he is joined by Karl Dehesa, fresh from a stint with three-time defending champion NLEX Road Warriors in the PBA D-League.
The Malaysia Dragons, meanwhile, tapped once more the services of outside gunner Patrick Cabahug, while obtaining PBA D-League veteran Mark Jeffries.
An interesting addition to the Dragons’ roster is Fil-Tongan Moala Tautuaa, a 6-foot-7 behemoth from US NCAA Division II Chadron State.
Tautuaa was discovered by former PBA player Pongky Alolor and was on the verge of teaming up with fellow Fil-Tongan Asi Taulava with the Dragons until the one-time PBA MVP decided to hook up with the Beermen.
The defending champion Warriors, meanwhile, will once again rely on half-bred Pinoys with the return of Pringle (injured) and Canada.
An intriguing addition to Indonesia is Richard Smith, a 6-foot-7 player born in Subic who grew up in Bremerton, Washington and played for the American Basketball Association side Salem Sabres.
With Pringle out with an MCL injury, another Fil-American in John Smith will take his place.