Kevin Quiambao, CSB's new recruits backstop Dwight Howard-led Strong Group for Dubai tilt

Champion players Kevin Quiambao and Allen Liwag are joining Dwight Howard with Strong Group.
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Reigning UAAP Most Valuable Player Kevin Quiambao headlines the first set of local players who will play for Strong Group in the Dubai International Basketball Championship.

Strong Group confirmed on Saturday that Quiambao, who led La Salle back to the UAAP men's basketball throne last month, is joining the team which will be led this year by former NBA superstar Dwight Howard.

Quiambao was part of Strong Group's team that competed in last year's DIBC, which was bolstered then by former NBA star Nick Young and former league veterans turned PBA imports Renaldo Balkman and Shabazz Muhammad.

“Super happy na mapasama ulit sa team knowing yung roster is super loaded and talented. Yung gutom na makabawi is nandiyan para sa ‘min dahil yung league nga na sasalihan natin is best of the best,” said Quiambao.

“Bibigay ko yung best ko every game and kung anong matutulong ko sa team para makuha yung goal natin na magchampion, gagawin ko.”

Quiambao will not be the only Green Archer in this year's Strong Group squad as Ef Escandor was also recruited.

“Escandor is a good shooter, and we need a guy like him who can spot up and knock down shots since most of the teams will be focused on defending imports,” head coach Charles Tiu explained why they brought in Escandor.

Even Topex Robinson, La Salle's head coach, was taken into the Strong Group fold to join Tiu's coaching staff.

“I've talked with Coach Topex about working together in the past, even before he got the DLSU job. We are good friends, and I am sure he will add a lot of value to us. He is a champion coach,” Tiu said.

Meanwhile, three of College St. Benilde's transfer student-athletes, Allen Liwag, Tony Ynot, and Justine Sanchez, will also suit up for Strong Group.

The said players served their residency last year following their move from NCAA rivals Emilio Aguinaldo College and San Beda, respectively.

Liwag, Ynot, and Sanchez, though, last saw action in the MPBL with Liwag winning the championship with Pampanga.

They played in the regional league using special guest licenses to keep their amateur statuses, making them eligible for NCAA Season 100.

“We also wanted to give our newest Benilde recruits the experience of playing overseas and competing at a high level. So, we decided to include Ynot, Sanchez, and Liwag,” Tiu further said.

“They will have to fight for their minutes as they also play the same position as our imports. But this is good for their overall growth as players and is part of my thrust at CSB to continue developing guys as much as we can.”

La Salle, incoming CSB players join forces at Strong Group

This marks a rare time that players and even the head coaches of the two teams representing the green side of Taft Avenue will team up.

“DLSU just won the college championship, so it made sense for us to bring in some of their players and merge them with ours at Benilde,” said Tiu, also the concurrent Blazers head coach.

“After all, we are One La Salle.”

The Dubai International Basketball Championship runs from Jan. 19-28 at the Al-Nasr Club.

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