Throwback Thursday: It was all a Dream

This article originally appeared in SLAM 211

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The ABL has punched in another impressive season, maybe its best yet. Through the years, we’ve seen an evolution of the game in the region, a place of re-birth for some notable stars and a perfect platform for future standouts to make their mark.

That being said, who’s the ABL’s best? Who would you pick to best rep?

By Sajjatam “TK” Kulsomboon

You would have never thought that imagining up an ASEAN Basketball League “Dream Team” would be such a tough task. Yet when given the assignment, it resulted in a longer than expected list of outstanding players who each had their own solid claim to being selected for the team. In the end, it would have to come down to the final 12 that will be listed as the best of the best. The ABL might only be eight years and seven seasons old, but there has been plenty of high-level talent that has grazed the hardwood in front of the ASEAN region fanbase. At the rate that the league has been growing, this compiled list will definitely go through some changes as the years go by.

But for now, here are the twelve players of the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) Dream Team.

(We’ll be limiting the Dream Team to only 2 World Imports for the sake of this practice, to follow the original World Import quota of the league.)

Avendio-2

Leo Avenido
Teams: Brunei Barracudas, Singapore Slingers, San Miguel Beermen, Saigon Heat, Mono Vampires
1 x Champion (2013)
1 x Local MVP (2012)

A list of top ABL players would not be complete without Avenido. The sharpshooting veteran came into the league in the very first year as a Heritage Import for the Barracudas and kept on scoring over a span of six seasons for 5 teams.

Avenido’s charm was that he could always find a way to score, even as he aged on into his mid-thirties. He was so good at it that he was the first player in ABL history to break the 1,000 career points mark and now holds the All-Time record for points scored at 1,627. Not only was Avenido a fan favorite everywhere he played because of his scoring prowess, it was also because he had fun every time he was on the court.

While it’s unlikely that the 38-year-old will make a comeback as a player in the ABL, perhaps we’ll get to seem him extend his ABL legacy as a coach some time soon?

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Steve Thomas (World Import)
Teams: Philippines Patriots, Indonesia Warriors, Hitech Bangkok City
2 x Champion (2012, 2014)
1 x Defensive Player of the Year (2012)

For whatever scoring Leo Avenido would bring to this Dream Team, Steve Thomas would bring just as much defense. And intensity. Lots and lots of intensity.

Thomas is the type of player you’d hate as an opponent, but would go to war with as a teammate. He’s not a big-time scorer as most would expect from an import, but his passion to win is second to none and it shows in his track record. After arriving into the league with the Patriots in 2010, Thomas made four straight appearances in the ABL finals and won the title twice. Thomas thrives on his ideology of doing anything for his team to get the victory, which is why he is also one of the best big man passers the league has ever seen. He’s willing to give the ball to anyone else on the team if he feels that it would make his team better. His full-court outlet lobs are a thing of beauty and something all big men should look to emulate.

While being the league’s all-time leading rebounder (1,519) and second leading scorer (1,464) looks nice on his resume, it’s how highly he’s respected by his teammates, coaches, and opponents as a winner that makes him a lock for the ABL Dream Team.

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Mario Wuysang
Teams: Satria Muda Britama, Indonesia Warriors
1 x Champion (2012)
1 x Local MVP (2010-2011)

Wuysang teamed up with Steve Thomas in their first championship run to form one of the best teams in ABL history. As the first local player to average double-digit scoring for 3 straight seasons, Wuysang gained league-wide respect and is still highly regarded to this day as one of the best guards in the region. The floor general was a major piece of the Indonesia Warriors teams that made it to back-to-back ABL Finals. His ability as a floor-spacing shooter (35.2 3P%) and an elite passer made it easier for his team mates to play to their strengths, but it was his leadership that was most valuable to the team and steered them to greatness.

“Super Mario” has become an iconic symbol of Indonesian basketball and a large part of that is his contribution to the Indonesian ABL teams.

Pringle-2

Stanley Pringle
Teams: Indonesia Warriors
1 x Champion (2012)

Another piece of the Indonesia Warriors Championship core that will forever linger in the memories of ABL fans is most definitely Stanley Pringle. The Filipino-American sensation seemed to be able to do a little bit of everything and the team committed to allowing him to do so en route to their continuous success. He had a flashy and electric side to his game, but there was also a calming pace he played that made him stand out. You can find multiple highlights of Pringle crossing someone up or making an acrobatic finish in traffic, but he always played under control and at the tempo he desired to play. Pringle averaged a spectacular 18.6 PPG, 6.2 APG, and 4.8 RPG along with an effective 45.5 3P% in the Warriors’ championship run.

The league had yet to start awarding Heritage Import MVPs during that season, but if they had, there’s no doubt that Pringle would have notched one during his two seasons playing here.

Attaporn (Kuk)-2

Attaporn Lertmalaiporn
Teams: Thailand Tigers, Chang Thai Slammers, Bangkok Cobras, Hitech Bangkok City
2 x Champion (2010-2011, 2014)
1 x Finals MVP (2010-2011)
1 x Local MVP (2009-2010)

The Thailand National Team player was the local MVP award in the inaugural ABL season when he averaged 14.9 PPG. He made a great impression on the rest of the league and was very close to being signed as the first non-Filipino Heritage Import for the Brunei Barracudas the following season. Instead, he returned to play in Thailand for the Chang Thai Slammers and was named the Finals MVP in his first championship. Attaporn’s high-flying antics and fiery personality won over fans all across the region and he’s become one of the most recognizable faces of Thailand basketball up until today.

Multiple knee injuries slowed him down as the years went on, but Lertmalaiporn was able to adjust and evolve into a much better shooter. After shooting barely 16.5% from downtown in his first 3 seasons, he flipped the script and went on to shoot 40.7% during Hitech Bangkok City’s championship run in 2014 which was highlighted by the national icon’s clutch long range shot in the title clinching game.

Charles-2

Chris Charles
Teams: SportsRev Thailand Slammers, Hitech Bangkok City, Saigon Heat
1 x Champion (2014)
2 x World Import MVP (2013, 2014)
1 x Defensive Player of the Year (2013)

Charles is widely regarded as one of the most hardworking players in the ABL and while he’s quite soft-spoken, his performance speaks for itself on the court.
The seven-footer entered the league as an injury replacement for the Slammers but once he got his chance, he made sure to make a long-lasting impression. His long limbs and exceptional mobility made him a two-way terror who could erase shot attempts on one end and reach out for impossible alley-oop slams on the other. Charles would never gloat about his achievements because he never has to: the numbers stand out on their own. He’s only 1 of 3 players to have at least 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in the ABL and also holds the All-Time record for blocked shots (259).

Even with all the accolades, awards, championship trophies, and record-breaking performances, Charles is still a guy that would sheepishly smile at the mention of all those accomplishments and direct the credit to others around him.

Baguion-2

Froilan Baguion
Teams: Philippines Patriots, Chang Thai Slammers, San Miguel Beermen, SportsRev Thailand Slammers, Saigon Heat, Mono Vampires
2 x Champion (2009-2010, 2010-2011)

The point guard dubbed as “The Magician” found a home in the ABL and his name resonates with the early successes of the league. Baguion won two straight championships in the first two ABL seasons and was close to winning a third before being denied by the Indonesia Warriors in 2012.

Baguion doesn’t fit the mold of modern crazy-athletic scoring guards, but resembles more of the old-school pass-first creators. His court vision was so remarkable to watch in action and it kept you wondering, as you sat on the edge of your seats, what he was going to do next. Playing with Baguion was easy. He was a gifted passer (all-time record 569 assists) who always seemed to know who needed the ball and where he needed it. He never stood out as a scoring threat on his own, but he made the other four players on the court a threat to score at any time if you let your guard down. Even with the overflow of great point guards to have played in the ABL, Baguion will always be among the best.

Jason (Kuk)-2

Jason Brickman
Teams: Westports Malaysia Dragons
1 x Champion (2015-2016)
1 x Finals MVP (2015-2016)

While we’re on the topic of great point guards, we also have to bring up Jason Brickman. The Fil-Am played in only one season, but what a season it was indeed. He was the commander of an up-tempo Dragons team which was arguably the best offensive squad in the entire history of the league.

Brickman was only one of four players to record 1,000 career assists in NCAA Division 1 and he didn’t disappoint once he started playing in the ABL. Records were shattered all throughout Brickman’s lone ABL season, whether it was the single season assist record (209) or the single game assists record (21). As the only player who has recorded at least 20 assists in a game (twice!) and averaged at least 10 assists in a season, it was not surprising how good the Dragons were in 2014-2015.

The season ended happily with the Dragons celebrating the title and Brickman claiming the Finals MVP in one of the most intense ABL Finals series ever.

Matt (Kuk)-2

Matthew Wright
Teams: Westports Malaysia Dragons
1 x Champion (2015-2016)
1 x Heritage MVP (2015-2016)

The other half of that deadly Dragons backcourt was Matthew Wright, who also joins Brickman on this ABL Dream team. The two played as if they had been teammates for years. While Brickman tallied up assist after assist, Wright was on the receiving end, finishing those plays with long-range bombs.

The Gilas/PBA standout compiled for an All-Time Single Season record 71 three-point shots made. His off-the-ball movement and quick-release jump shot peaked in one game where he hit a record of 10 three-pointers, most by any other player ever in a single game. Wright scored 461 points in the season, which is not only 4th highest all-time but also the most by a non-World Import. His ability to score seemed so effortless that his three-point shots usually became morale-crushing weapons in tight situations.

Even though Wright spent only one season in the ABL, the 2015-2016 Heritage MVP has done enough to solidify himself as one of the best shooters the league has seen.

Wei Long-2

Wong Wei Long
Team: Singapore Slingers
2 x Local MVP (2014, 2015-2016)

As Wright and Brickman were celebrating their championship, Wong Wei Long was on the other side of the court, devastated at the loss of the Slingers in the ABL Finals.

He was the one who hit the buzzer-beating game winner to force a decisive Game 5 in that series, shortly after being named Local MVP for the second straight season. In addition to his MVP trophies, the Singapore National Team regular is also the only player to score at least 1,000 career points as a local in the ABL so it seems like the only thing Wei Long has left on his check list is to finally win that ABL title.

After two consecutive years of being thisclose to winning a championship, Wei Long will really have to hope that the “third time is the charm” in this upcoming season. Whatever the case, he’s built up a solid enough resume to warrant a spot on this team.

Lamb-2

Tyler Lamb
Team: Hitech Bangkok City, Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions
1 x Champion (2016-2017)
1 x Heritage Import MVP (2016-2017)

One player that was in the way of Wei Long’s quest for his ABL title was Tyler Lamb and the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions, who recently clinched the trophy this past season over the Slingers.

Lamb was a lethal offensive weapon for the Long Lions, from his silky smooth jumper to his hypnotizing hesitation crossovers. The Thai-American already had a sensational rookie campaign with Hitech Bangkok City, but shifted gears with the Long Lions in the following season where he averaged 19.0 PPG, 6.2 rebounds, and 4.8 assists.

He fit in nicely with the Long Lions’ defensive scheme which focused on forcing turnovers. Lamb has a knack of picking off passes and he is one of the best in ABL history as the only player to have back-to-back seasons with at least 50 steals.

Having recently turned 26-years-old, Lamb is still among the younger group of this Dream Team so look forward to watch him add on more to his already-impressive resume.

Parks-2

Bobby Ray Parks Jr.
Team: Alab Pilipinas
1 x Local MVP (2016-2017)

Bobby Ray Parks Jr. is the youngest player on this Dream Team and the only player to have never made it to an ABL Finals, but that shouldn’t overshadow the fact how special he was in his first season with the league.

Fresh off a stint with Gilas in the FIBA OQT 2016, Parks did not wait long to display his talent level to the rest of the league when he erupted for 41 points three games into the season. That outburst broke the All-Time Single Game record for most points scored by a local player. And he didn’t stop there. Parks didn’t waste time and shattered another record the following month by dropping a perfect 8/8 three-pointers, the most in a Single Game by a local player. Injuries hampered his performances as the season progressed, but Parks was able to finish with 380 points in the season (again, most by a local player) and an outstanding per game stat line of 19.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.2 assists.

Honorable Mentions:

The 12 players above have certainly earned their places on the Dream Team roster, but there were obviously a few omissions who have had noteworthy ABL careers themselves. Marcus Elliott recently broke the single season scoring record (497 points), won the World Import MVP, Finals MVP, and a championship. Justin Howard holds the Single Game scoring record, has two Finals appearances, and a Defensive Player of the Year award. Jerick Canada was a Finals MVP, has two championships, and three straight Finals appearances.

The list keeps going on and on with players who have their own cases to be on the Dream Team. In the end, it goes to show us that the ABL has had (and continues to have) an incredible amount of talent on display.

As the region continues to grow in terms of basketball development, more and more players will add on to their ABL legacy and this Dream Team will eventually have to be revised again and again… but that’s a burden that we’re willing to take upon ourselves.

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