|Caelan Tiongson finds his fellow Filipino hoop junkies as the "best in the world." Kuk Thew/ABL (file photo)|
By Ivan Saldajeno
STA. ROSA, Laguna--After spending his younger days in the United States and now bouncing through China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore, Caelan Tiongson finally found his way to the Philippines on Wednesday night.
And the six-foot-five forward can't help but be amazed at the raucous crowd at the Sta. Rosa Multi-Purpose Sports Complex as his team Nanhai visited Alab Pilipinas for their first meeting of the season.
"I love it, man. The Filipino crowd is the best crowd in the world," Tiongson told Dugout Philippines. "It's fun to play here."
Despite playing for the Kung Fu, the 25-year-old Biola University alumnus, who is making his first foray in professional basketball after getting undrafted in the 2016 NBA Draft, felt like he is part of Alab.
"I appreciate the love that they showed me," added Tiongson, born to a Filipino father and an American mother.
However, Tiongson's first homecoming ended in disarray as Nanhai, which is also--and now officially--known as the Chong Son Kung Fu, lost to Alab in overtime.
[Related Story: Alab finally nabs win in Sta. Rosa after OT thriller against Nanhai]
"We played against a really, really, really talented team. It could have gone either way," he noted.
He then gave an ode to Josh Urbiztondo for this string of triples that helped Alab go ahead of the Kung Fu late in the game.
"Credit to him for making some big, big, big, big, big shots," added Tiongson.
He then rued that he felt Nanhai lost steam despite leading for most of the game and him almost shutting down Justin Brownlee.
"We kinda lost a little bit of confidence," lamented Tiongson, who finished with 11 points, six rebounds, and two assists. "We weren't shooting our open shots. We just have to be confident. We're just as talented as everyone else in the league, so we got to be able to shoot open shots and we'll be good."
Despite the defeat, Tiongson will cherish his first game in the Philippines.
"It's all about good experience for me," concluded Tiongson, who looks forward to joining the PBA in two years.
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