By Les Tan/Red Sports and Erwin Wong/Red Sports

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Thailand Tigers Attaporn Lertmalaiporn (#55, Tigers) has proven himself to be an ASEAN basketball gem in the making. (Photo 1 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)

Attaporn Lertmalaiporn of the Thailand Tigers was named the winner of the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) regular season award at the awards night held earlier this year in March 2010.

“Winning the award made me very happy for Thailand and the Tigers,” Attaporn told Red Hoops. “I never thought I would win it. It will help the Thai players in general to show you can make it.”

For the best import award, which was won by Jason Dixon of the Philippine Patriots, the ASEAN players who were brought in as imports in any of the six teams were also in the running. As for the regular season MVP award given to Attaporn, the award was only restricted to locals. Attaporn finished 11th in the league for points per game (14.9) to lead all local players.

The award winners were chosen by a panel made up of ABL technical director Agus A. Mauro and ABL CEO Kuhan Foo.

“The criteria are based on an MVP points format from FIBA that calculates from points, rebounds, assists, etc, that accumulate from all the games the players played,” an ABL spokesperson told Red Hoops.

“He’s very special. He plays maybe a little odd. But that’s what people like,” said Thailand Tigers owner Wim Reijnen at the awards dinner in Kuala Lumpur in early March. “Now of course his stats are also very good. He is a national team player in Thailand but up until October, he was not a professional player. He had some challenges in the beginning, when it was difficult for him, and then we figured it out with him, and I think he did very well. He scored 230 plus points. His free throws were great, 71%, which is high, I would say. And that’s not three or four free throws. I think he had a 100 or so. That’s very good.

Attaporn, who picked up basketball when he was 13, is currently doing a master degree in physical education at Srinakarin Thalawirot Pasanmit University and is in his final year on a full scholarship. Before suiting up for the Tigers, Attaporn played for the Bangkok Bank club and Hi Tech Apparel. He still plays for Hi Tech Apparel when he is not with the Tigers. He also turns out for his university team.

Reijnen said that Attaporn’s award comes from a lot of hard work.

“I’m very happy for him. Extremely happy for him also because of his background which is not the easiest and so he had to work doubly hard to get to this. And now the first season, being a pro, being an MVP of the ABL. His personal background is not easy. He’s not from a middle class or wealthy family and so it’s extra difficult. So he had to work hard to get to university and that’s why he’s not here tonight because he had to play in a university tournament,” said Reijnen.

Reijnen was also confident that Attaporn would return for the second season.

“Absolutely. He’s already said so. 110% that he’s coming back for sure. He actually feels the same way that he adds something to it. I think he’s also a good role model and kids love him. The only unfortunate thing is that he doesn’t speak English. But that’s ok. It’s fine. You don’t need to. Sports is the language and you don’t really need to speak English for what he does. It would be handy, maybe sometimes. He understands but didn’t get enough practise,” said Reijnen.

The award for Attaporn was a highlight of an otherwise forgettable first season in the ABL. The Tigers finished with a 3-12 win-loss record although the team lost seven of those games by six points or less.

A short pre-season was a key reason, said Reijnen.

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