By Les Tan/Red Sports
Manila, Tuesday, September 1, 2009 – The Singapore Slingers was one of six new teams announced this afternoon for the new ASEAN Basketball League tipping off on October 10, 2009.
The other five teams are the Brunei Barracudas, the Kuala Lumpur Dragons, the Philppine Patriots, Satria Muda BritAma (Indonesia) and the Thailand Tigers.
The driving force behind the league is Tony Fernandes, the founder of AirAsia.
“If we wait for politicians and governments to get together, we’ll be waiting for a long, long time,” said Fernandes at the press conference today.
The Malaysian entrepreneur is the chairman of the ASEAN Basketball League and has lined up private business owners in the different countries to set up teams that will cost about US$1 million each to run.
Each team is allowed a maximum of 5 imports – 2 international and 3 ASEAN players. Locals will fill the remaining seven slots on the 12-man roster. There is a salary cap of US$10,000 for the import players.
The league will play from October 2009 to February 2010 on a home-and-away basis. The teams will play each other 3 times and the top four teams will go into a best-of-3 semi-finals. The final is a best-of-5 series.
The league is also looking to develop youth talent and each team will commit time and resources to have a youth development squad for locals.
“The aim of the league is to develop local players who can earn a living from basketball,” said Fernandes.
There are also plans for expansion beyond the current 6 teams.
“We don’t want to be just limited to a 6-team league,” said Dr Mikee Romero, team owner of the Philippine Patriots. “Our dream is to have 20 teams in 3 years’ time. This is Asia’s answer to the NBA – and we are the ABL.”
On hand from the Singapore Slingers were Singaporean players Pathman Matialakan and Hong Wei Jian, the first two local players who have signed contracts with the Slingers for the new season.
“I’m very excited. It’s something to look forward to,” said Pathman, who has played with the Slingers since they set up in Singapore in 2006.
“Instead of playing only 3-4 games a year [as a national player] and having nothing to look forward to, we now have a league.”
Wei Jian was glad to have a contract to play pro ball.
“It’s a load off my back! Finally! Waiting for it!” said Wei Jian, who finished off the season last year for the Slingers with a memorable dunk at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
The Slingers have also signed up Filipino Al Vergara to the roster. Vergara played for the Slingers last season.
Marcus Ng is the other ASEAN player who will suit up for the Slingers. He is the younger brother of ex-Slinger Darren Ng.
Two Americans have been signed as well and now only one import spot remains unfilled.
The other Singaporean players will be announced when they sign their contracts.