KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (22nd FIBA Asia Champions Cup): Westports KL Dragons had an admittedly disappointing end to their season when they bowed out of the semifinals of the Asean Basketball League Season 2 late in January.
But as things would transpire, the impressive 8-7 record that put them at No 3 at the end of Regular Season would come in handy when the representative of the FIBA Asia Sub zone SEABA for the 22nd FIBA Asia Champions Cup was chosen.
The 22nd FIBA Asia Champions Cup will be played at Manila from May 28-June 5 to identify the champion club team of FIBA Asia.
ABL Season 2 champions Chang Thailand Slammers were ruled out due to the Thailand National Federation placed under a FIBA suspension and runners-up Philippine Patriots also could not be chosen because hosts Philippines chose Smart Gilas to be their representative and the KL Dragons thus were nominated to represent SEABA.
“We are definitely excited that’s for sure. To be honest, Westports KL Dragons (WKLD) fell short of our target last year, and that was to qualify for the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) Final,” said KL Dragons General Manager Yakub Hussaini.
“That’s because during the preliminary rounds, WKLD was seen as the team to lift the trophy at the end of the season. But due to injuries and packed schedule in the play offs we had to bow down to the Philippine Patriots in the semis,” he added
“We have to thank the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) for recommending WKLD to the FIBA Asia Champions Cup and for having the faith and believe in us. This is a big leap for us and we will do our best to achieve our target,” Hussaini said.
Vanguardia at vanguard
The KL Dragons have chosen Filipino Ariel Vanguardia as their Head coach for the 22nd FIBA Asia Champions Cup with Goh Heng Chuat who coached them in ABL busy with his duties with the Malaysian National Team preparing for the SEA Games and the SEABA Championship.
The KL Dragons are drawn with hosts Smart Gilas, Jordanian champions ASU, the teams from Japan and Middle Asia in Group A for the Preliminary Round of the 22nd FIBA Asia Champions Cup.
“Our group is not as tough as Group B. Our first target is to qualify for the quarterfinals,” Vanguardia said.
“That’s our modest goal. We’ll play hard and hopefully, we can qualify for the quarterfinals,” he added.
The top four teams from each group will qualify for the quarterfinals. Group B comprises twice defending FIBA Asia Cup champions Mahram of Iran, last year’s runners-up Al Rayyan of Qatar, UAE’s Al Shabab and teams from Lebanon and Syria.
Miller confirmed, Morrison likely
Hussaini also confirmed that the ABL Season 2 MVP Nakiea Miller will continue to don the KL Dragons colors.
The other import the KL Dragons are eyeing also comes from the ABL family – Marcus Morrison who played for Satria Muda BritAma of Indonesia in ABL Season 2.
“Both players have undoubtedly made their mark in the ABL. Miller has shown that he is a reliable centre on both offensive and defensive play. And Morrison is a player that can play numerous positions,” Hussaini said.
“In the Champions Cup, we are not allowed to have our ASEAN imports so Morrison is the player that can compensate for this. He is also an aggressive player that adds a bit of fury in to our game. I am sure this is an ideal combination to compliment our locals,” he added.
The KL Dragons tip off their preparations for their maiden appearance at the FIBA Asia Champions Cup with a camp on May 2.
Photo courtesy: ABL