Monday, 23 June 2014 | MYT 9:26 PM
Fifth ABL season to focus on talent development
Westports Malaysia Dragons' owner Ruben Gnanalingam (second right) with the other ABL team owners during the official launch of the fifth season. - AZMAN GHANI / The Star
KUALA LUMPUR: The fifth season of the Asean Basketball League (ABL), which tips off on July 16, is all about developing local talents in the region.
Under the league’s new rules, team can now only have two Asean imports instead of the previous three and one local player must be on court at all times.
Each team is still allowed to sign two world imports.
Despite falling short in the semi-finals for four straight seasons, Westport Malaysia Dragons believe that developing local talents will not deter them from finally claiming the ABL title.
“I’m pretty excited for the new season because we’ve never made it past the semi-finals and I’m hoping of a breakthrough this year,” said Dragons owner Ruben Gnanalingam during the ABL launch on Monday.
“There will be fewer imports this time, so there will be more playing time for the locals to step up.
“Ultimately, I believe the other team owners are also interested in a healthy and competitive league. This year’s league promises to be a lot more balanced,” added Ruben.
Saigon Heat owner Connor Nguyen echoed Ruben’s sentiments, pointing out that the Vietnamese side will be fielding a young team.
“We are committed to growing the sport in Vietnam.
“For that reason, we have decided to select a younger team of players to give them a feel of what competitive basketball is like,” said Connor.
Besides the Dragons and Heat, the other teams competing are Indonesia Warriors, Jobstreet.com Singapore Slingers, and newcomers HiTech Bangkok City and Laskar Dreya South Sumatra.
The Dragons will have the honour of playing the first match of the new season. They face Bangkok City in the Thai Japanese Stadium on July 16.