UTSUNOMIYA, Japan – The 2023 East Asia Super League (EASL) Champions Week is finally set to tip off on Wednesday with a field of eight teams, including two from the Philippines.
Initially designed as a home-and-away tournament to be staged in 2022, the EASL decided to stage a shorter tournament instead before going full blast with its maiden season later this year.
Before the action begins, here are some of the things you need to know about the EASL Champions Week.
TWO PBA TEAMS IN ACTION
San Miguel and TNT flew in to this Japanese city on Tuesday on the eve of the competitions to be held at the Brex Arena Utsunomiya.
The Beermen and the Tropang GIGA earned the right to play in the EASL Champions Week after making the finals of the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup.
Like other Asian teams, San Miguel and TNT will parade two imports, one of which is playing in the ongoing Governors’ Cup in the Beermen’s Cameron Clark, who will be joined by Jessie Govan.
The Tropang GIGA won’t be having Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in the team, and will instead play with Jalen Hudson, the import that Hollis-Jefferson replaced in the PBA Governors’ Cup. Joining him is Daniel Ochefu.
Former PBA imports are also listed in the tournament in Allen Durham (Meralco) of Ryukyu Golden Kings and Mike Singletary (San Miguel) of Taipei Fubon Braves.
BAY AREA DRAGONS PLAY IN THEIR MOTHER LEAGUE
After finishing runner-up to Barangay Ginebra as a guest team in the 2022 PBA Commissioner’s Cup, the Dragons finally play in their mother league. Myles Powell and Andrew Nicholson will finally be playing together for the Dragons, who will still have their core from the PBA Commissioner’s Cup. Bay Area though added Fil-American Sedrick Barefield to beef up the squad.
The eight teams were grouped into two. Group A will have San Miguel, Korea’s Anyang KCC, Japan’s Ryukyu Golden Kings, and Taiwan’s Taipei Fubon Braves, while Group B is composed of TNT, Bay Area Dragons, Korea’s Seoul SK Knights, and Japan’s Utsunomiya Brex.
Champions in their respective league are Utsunomiya, Seoul SK Knights, and Taipei Fubon Braves.
Unlike in usual competitions, the EASL Champions Week won’t see all teams in each group battling each other. Under the format, each team will be facing only two squads.
TNT will start off the action for the Philippines with a match against Utsunomiya Brex on Wednesday to be followed by the clash against Seoul SK Knights on Thursday, meaning the Tropang GIGA won’t be facing Bay Area in the group stage.
San Miguel will clash against Ryukyu Golden Knights on Thursday, before playing Anyang KCC on Saturday in Okinawa.
The top teams in each group will face in the finals, while the second-placers in each group will play for third place.
The games will be held in Utsunomiya from Wednesday to Friday before teams travel to Okinawa on Saturday for the final day of the group stage before the battle for third and championship game are held on Sunday also in Okinawa.
Here is the full schedule: (Local time, -1 for Philippine standard time)
Wednesday, March 1 (Utsunomiya)
5 p.m. – Taipei Fubon Braves vs. Anyang KCC
7:30 p.m. – Utsunomiya Brex vs. TNT Tropang GIGA
Thursday, March 2 (Utsunomiya)
5 p.m. – Seoul SK Knights vs. Bay Area Dragons
7:30 p.m. – Ryukyu Golden Kings vs. San Miguel Beermen
Friday, March 3 (Utsunomiya)
5 p.m. – TNT Tropang GIGA vs. Seoul SK Knights
7:30 p.m. – Utsunomiya Brex vs. Bay Area Dragons
Saturday, March 4 (Okinawa)
4 p.m. – Anyang KCC vs. San Miguel Beermen
7 p.m. – Ryukyu Golden Kings vs. Taipei Fubon Braves
Sunday, March 5 (Okinawa)
4 p.m. – Runner-up of Group A vs. Runner-up of Group B
7 p.m. – Winner of Group A vs. Winner of Group B
EX-FILIPINO COLLEGIATE STARS SHOW WARES AGAINST PBA TEAMS
An intriguing aspect of the EASL Champions Week from a Philippine context is that two Filipino players will be going up against PBA squads. Rhenz Abando is in the line-up for the Anyang KCC, which will face San Miguel in the competition, while Carl Tamayo was recently signed up by Ryukyu Golden Knights and could see action in the match against TNT.