Alab Pilipinas has brought out the big guns.
The Philippine team in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) recently acquired the services of two new players as their World Imports – Sampson Carter and James Hughes. The two Americans have replaced brothers Lee Seung Jun and Lee Dong Jun for Alab.
The pair had their debuts last Sunday in Taiwan where they earned an 86-77 victory over the Kaohsiung Truth.
Carter had a solid outing of 23 points (9-of-15 FG), six rebounds, six assists, and two steals. Hughes on the other hand was an anchor on both ends of the floor as he went for 12 points and nine boards.
“Now we have a presence inside,” Alab coach Mac Cuan firmly said after their win. “We have a wing protector, we can match-up with bigs. But we also understand that they are not in game shape yet. We’ll get there.”
Carter logged in 35 minutes while Hughes finished just below the 30-minute mark. Fatigue played a role in their opening games, but their talent and experience helped them transition well into the ABL.
The 26-year old Carter is a product of the University of Massachusetts in the United States. At 6’8”, he’s a versatile forward who can be a potent scorer on one end, and a tenacious defender on the other.
“It was a great experience, I’m very excited to be part of the team,” Carter beamed after his first game. “We have a very good team, very good chemistry.”
Carter actually even got a taste of playing in the NBA back in 2015, when he played a couple of preseason games with the Memphis Grizzlies. He was unfortunately waived right before the season. Before heading into Asia and suiting up for the Philippines, he last played for the Caballeros de Culiacan in Mexico.
There’s also a sense of familiarity for Carter as he already knew Filipino star Ray Parks from when they were kids. “I played with Ray when he was 14 and I was 16 so we have a good connection already,” he said.
Hughes on the other hand is 33-years-old and comes from Northern Illinois. He’s a 6’11” center with a ton of experience abroad. He likewise played for the Memphis Grizzlies but as a center in the Summer League. He also played in Czech Republic, Japan, and Slovakia. His time with Alab Pilipinas will mark his second time playing in Asia.
“I played in Japan for two seasons. It’s my first time in the Philippines. Philippines, Taiwan — it’s a different experience,” Hughes assessed. “The ABL is different from the leagues I’ve played for, but basketball is basketball at the end of the day.”
Both Hughes and Carter will bring experience, versatility, and inside presence that the Philippines sorely needed. The Lee brothers are talented in their own right, but they played a more perimeter game. Against taller and tougher imports of the other teams, Alab needed size.
“Just being a versatile player whether it is scoring, rebounding, playing defense, or blocking shots. I’ll do the little things to get us better,” Carter said, of what he could bring to the table.
Hughes chimed in, “Just trying to be an inside force — run the floor, grab some rebounds, challenge and block some shots, keeping the ball alive and continue to match the team’s energy with my own energy.”
Alab now stands with a 3-2 record, with all of their wins at the expense of Kaohsiung Truth. There are still a ton of things to be improved on for the Philippines, including closing out games stronger. In their last game, with Alab safely up by 10 points with a minute and a half remaining, they allowed the Truth to nearly pull out an upset.
Kaohsiung’s import Chris Oliver was able to score six points in succession as Alab scrambled in the endgame. They were able to eventually get the win but mental toughness is something that Coach Cuan and his imports will have to look into.
“Growing pains. I guess we have to go through them as a team. Those lapses have been consistent the first five games,” the coach explained. “We get a good run and then we relax. It’s basically more mental now. We just have to address it soon.”
“We can run the floor, we are very long and athletic but we have to get better closing out games,” said Carter.
“We have to start and finish the game strong,” added Hughes. “We got to be consistent for 40 minutes.”
Alab’s next game will likewise be a familiar foe in the Singapore Slingers. Alab’s two losses were dealt by the Slingers, both at home and away. The Philippine team will hope to avenge their losses when they host the Singaporeans at the Alonte Sports Arena in Binan, Laguna later today at 8:00PM.
“As a team we have to take it day-by-day, game-by-game. Just focus on the little things. Hone in on the good things and correct the mistakes,” Hughes concluded.
Photos c/o the Asean Basketball League