This appears on the PBA website
KL Dragons to play in PBA D-League?
by rick olivares
If things progress the way they are now, the Kuala Lumpur Dragons will be a guest team for the next year’s PBA D-League Foundation Cup.
During the recent NBA Global Games pre-season match between the Houston Rockets and the Indiana Pacers, Dragons head coach Ariel Vanguardia asked PBA Commissioner Chito Salud about the possibility of coming in as a guest team for one conference in the D-League. “Basketball is a growing sport in Malaysia and we want to give our players more exposure and that is learning from the best in the region, Filipinos,” explained Vanguardia who is on his third year as head coach of the Dragons.
The Dragons play in the Asean Basketball League where they have finished third in the last two seasons. The Kuala Lumpur-based squad, with Vanguardia at the helm, has amassed a 24-18 record.
On his part, Salud thought the idea of a guest team would be mutually beneficial to all parties. “Basketball isn’t the most popular sport in Malaysia. And from my understanding, the sport is growing. It would certainly be nice for the sport to continue to grow in the Southeast Asian region. The Malaysians would like to learn from us and this is a complement to the Filipino,” said the commissioner. “Conversely, our local players will learn also from playing against a foreign team. It adds spice to the league. So why not?”
“Management is fully supportive of this move to play in the Philippines,” enthused Vanguardia.
Management is team owner Ruben Emir Gnanalingam who is also a co-owner of English football team Queens Park Rangers. Gnanalingam, a Malaysian of Sri Lankan descent, was listed by Forbes as the 24th richest man in the world in 2012.
To make the Dragons more competitive, Salud suggested to Vanguardia to field a team that is half-Malaysian and half-Filipino. “It will not help them if they field a wholly Malaysian squad then go 0-14 in the tournament. No one would have learned anything. Now I recommended to them to have seven Malaysians and seven Filipinos who have all played in the D-League and must not be older than 28 years old. Again, if you have older players it again defeats the purpose of developing our players. Plus, they may add one import.”
“Malaysia doesn't have a strong collegiate league such as the NCAA or the UAAP,” clarified Vanguardia who once coached Jose Rizal University. “All the local leagues last for only one week while the professional league, the Malaysian National Basketball League, lasts for a month.”
Some of the KL Dragons mainstays Kuek Tian Lian, Ong Chung Kee, and Lo Shee Fai are expected to be included in the roster should they compete in the Foundation Cup. They also have two Filipino-Americans in the line-up – 6’6” Moala Tautuaa and 6’1” Avery Scharer. San Mig Coffee draft pick Justin Melton suited up for the Dragons during the 2012 season before heading over to the PBA D-League.
Joining Vanguardia in his coaching staff are former University of the Philippines head coach Lito Vergara and Letran Knights assistant Tino Pinat.