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Another Easter basketball dose set as AsiaBasket begins

By Dugout Philippines

MANILA—Southeast Asian basketball fans will get their basketball dose back by Easter Sunday as the Sportsclick AsiaBasket International Championship opens shop at the Malaysia Basketball Association (MABA) Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.

Ten clubs, including two collegiate teams from the Philippines, will take part in the summer tournament organized by Filbasket led by president Jai Reyes, head of league operations Dino Lee, and head of media Patrick Edrozo.

Among the teams to watch out for is the Filipino squad Shawarma Shack Pilipinas, which is bringing in 3x3 stars Ken Bono and Mike Harry Nzeusseu.

Also backstopping Shawarma Shack are MPBL veterans James Martinez, Nikki Monteclaro, and RJ Deles, who is listed as part of its team management.

Th3rd Floor-KalosPH Cooly, on the other hand, has signed up six-foot-nine beanpole Ladis Lepalam for the AsiaBasket event even as actor and former reality show star Gerald Anderson leads the way for the Joseph Guion-coached team.

Sanzar Pharmaceuticals, meanwhile, has brought in three former NCAA players to lead its AsiaBasket team, namely Shaq Alanes, Jeremiah Taladua, and 6-foot-10 Cameroonian center Hamadou Laminou, who will be coach Jhembel Gican's world import.

Sanzar has also recruited Filipino-American guard Jameel McGill for the tournament, and he is listed as the team’s ASEAN heritage import.

Each team has been allowed to sign one ASEAN heritage import.

Another team bringing in a solid roster is the MFT Fruitmasters, who have former San Beda star Francis Abarcar, grizzled veterans Migs Castellano, Edzel Mag-isa, and Marlon Monte, and six-foot-nine center San Ma Kong from Hong Kong with them.

For the Sportsclick AsiaBasket International Championship, each team is allowed to sign two world imports, and MFT made the most of the rule by signing former PBA imports Liam McMorrow and AZ Reid.

Rounding up the list of Filipino pro teams competing is the BGC Builders led by former ABL stars JR Cawaling, Patrick Cabahug, and Gino Jumao-As.

The Builders also brought in two world imports, Canadian Kareem Huntley and Sierra Leonean Tosh Sesay.

The Sportsclick AsiaBasket International Championship is virtually looking like the Philippines versus Malaysia as three clubs from the Malaysian capital have been called up to defend their home court.

Headlining the Malaysian teams for the AsiaBasket event is no less than the Malaysian national team led by Ting Chun Hong.

Yong Kian Ann has been listed as the Harimau's head coach as Jeff Viernes, who coached the Malaysian squad during the 2025 FIBA Asia Cup Pre-Qualifiers last November, is now back as a player in the MPBL for the Sarangani Marlins.

Harimau Malaysia will be using the AsiaBasket event as part of its preparations for the Southeast Asian Games in Phnom Penh, Cambodia next month.

On the other hand, MBC Kirin, while having a Malaysian core, will be parading Thai player Wutipong Dasom and American import William Freeman.

The last Malaysian team in the field is KL Aseel, which is bringing in NCAA champion Louie Sangalang and American import Jalen Robinson to backstop the squad.

Leading KL Aseel’s locals is Tem Zhen Jie, now tagged as the “Malaysian Ricci Rivero”.

Filipino mentor Kristoffer Reyes will coach KL Aseel for the AsiaBasket tournament.

NCAA title contenders San Beda University and College of St. Benilde complete the 10-team field.

With James Kwekuteye already turning pro, the Yuri Escueta-coached Red Lions will bank on seniors Peter Alfaro, Damie Cuntapay, JV Gallego, and Clifford Jopia.

Meanwhile, the Charles Tiu-mentored Blazers will rely on their core led by Robi Nayve, Migs Oczon, Miggy Corteza, and Macoy Marcos even as prized prospect Allen Liwag makes his CSB debut after transferring from Emilio Aguinaldo College.

The Sportsclick AsiaBasket International Championship begins with a doubleheader on Easter Sunday with Sanzar battling Shawarma Shack in the first game at 5 p.m. and MBC taking on The Th3rd Floor in the nightcap at 7 p.m.

CSB will then debut in the tournament on Tuesday, opening a quadruple-header at 2 p.m. against Sanzar even as the other five teams also open their campaigns on the said day: BGC versus San Beda at 4 p.m., Harimau Malaysia against MFT at 6 p.m., and KL debuting against MBC Kirin at 8 p.m.

The top two teams per group after the round-robin phase will clash in the crossover semis on April 16 with the winners going to the April 18 final.

A consolation game for third place will be first played on April 18 between the two losing semifinalists before the championship game.

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