Seri Mutiara Champions Cup 2017: Group B Preview

The Seri Mutiara Champions Cup is set to tipoff let’s take a look at the teams in Group B of the tournament!

The international invitational tournament hosted by NBL Asia is boasting what it claims to be the strongest ever playing field in it’s 3rd year of existence… and for a good reason. The two groups are the tournament are packed with champions from different leagues and some highly recognisable stars.

Graphic Credit: NBL Asia

The group stages of the tournament will be played from 12-14 September. Teams will battle to determine the top 2 clubs that will advance to the playoff rounds which will be played on the 16th before the Final Showdown on the 17th.

Graphic Credit: NBL Asia

Seri Mutiara Champions Cup 2017: Group B

Teams:

NS Matrix (Malaysia)
KK Split (Croatia)
Guangzhou Securities Long Lions (China)
Fubon Braves (Chinese-Taipei)

Let’s take a look at each team in detail:


Seri Mutiara Champions Cup 2017: Guangzhou Securities Long Lions

The defending champions are back!

…and it’s a good thing they won the Seri Mutiara Champions Cup last season or there might have actually been less to root for. The Long Lions finished 19th in the CBA last season (not good) and they are hoping that things will turn around this season, starting with defending the Seri Mutiara Champions Cup title!

Player List  Height (cm) Jersey
Zheng Zhun 216 50
Fan Zi Ming 212 13
Zhang Fan 192 23
Wang Yue 205 32
Ju Ming Xin 200 8
Heng Yi Feng 196 21
Zhu Xu Hang 205 10
Chen Ying-Chun 183 2
Shi Jun 192 3
Luo Xu Dong 188 4

That’s… well… uhm.

Hmm.

To be direct and honest, Guangzhou won the title last year mainly on the shoulders of imports Alex Kirk, Ryan Boatright, and Nikkah Barahmi. The roster they have sent out this year has no imports… so far.

FOR NOW, this leaves the responsibilities of carrying the team mainly on the chinese local contributors.

Most notable is Zheng Zhun, the center who has seemingly evolved his game to match the modern floor-spacing style of basketball. According to RealGM, Zhun had took a total of 67 three point shots from 2011 to 2015. In his return to the CBA in 2016-2017, the 25-year-old took 131 three pointers and made 40.5% of them. Not bad for a seven footer. Zhun averaged 13.2 points and 3.7 rebounds in 28.3 minutes per game.

Fan Zi Ming is back again this year, after a successful rookie season in the CBA. The 19-year-old averaged 11.7 points and 5.3 rebounds and was a main contributor for the team even at such a young age. Zi Ming has been parts of the Chinese Youth National Teams and if he continues his production, he could make Guangzhou a much better team.

Ju Ming Xin played on the U19 World Championship team back in 2011 (averaged 14.2 points) and has been one of the local stars for Guangzhou since 2012.

Late Update: I never really understood how the CBA Draft works or who got which pick and how (because my Chinese really sucks) but it seems like Taiwanese-American standout Ray Chen will be playing for the Long Lions… at least in this tournament.

Latest Update: I also just realized that Ray Chen was in the initial roster all this time, but I didn’t know that his Chinese name was Chen Ying-Chun. So there you have it. Ray Chen’s recent form in the William Jones Cup for Taiwan White scoring 20.4 points per game on 49.6 FG% means that he will be a much needed offensive boost for the defending champs who seems to be without an import.


Seri Mutiara Champions Cup 2017: NS Matrix

It’s kind of weird that the defending champions and the runner ups of the previous tournament would be placed in the same group this year, but here we are.

NS Matrix fielded 5 imports (including Avery Scharer) along with the top talents in Malaysia Basketball last year to get to the finals and they look to do the same here this year.

Player Roster Height (CM.) Jersey No.
Gan Hong Hoong 187 30
Chang Zi Fueng 193 10
Thong Ching Chan 175 9
Mak Lok Seng 192 21
Liew Wei Yuong 185 12
Ooi Xian Fu 183 33
Pang Yong Teck 183 18
Jaleel Dominique Roberts 9
Keith Randall Hornsby 193 4
Joseph John Jr Avila 201 31
Bryson Xavier Fonville 183 15
Jeff Alvin Viernes 173 11

Australian Coach Brian Lester will be fielding out 5 imports again this season. However, he’ll have considerably less local talent to surround his star imports with only Mak Lok Seng (SEABA Championship 2017) and Gan Hong Hoong (SEABA Stankovic Cup 2016) who have recently made the national team.

Jaleel Roberts (7.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in senior year) and Keith Hornsby (15.0 points, 4.2 rebounds 3.1 assists in sophomore year)were team mates at UNC Asheville for their first two seasons in the NCAA before Hornsby transferred to play at LSU (where he would be team mates with Ben Simmons in his senior year averaging 13.1 points). Since then, both have had stints in the NBA G-League. Roberts played with the Santa Cruz Warriors and the Salk Lake City Stars while Hornsby played with the Texas Legends.

Avila and Fonville were team mates with Hornsby with the Texas Legends.

Avila was acquired mid-season via a trade and averaged 8.5 points and 5.2 rebounds. This came after a season in Belgium where he averaged 10.3 points and 6.0 rebounds. Avila starred at Navy for two seasons before transferring to star at Colorado State where he averaged 16.7 points and 7.5 rebounds in his senior year.

Fonville didn’t play at an NCAA Division 1 school, but instead starred at Division III Catholic University averaging 13.6 points and 5.2 assists in his collegiate career.

Last but not least, is the import from the Philippines, Jeff Viernes. The diminutive guard might be the smallest guy on the court at all times, but he plays and score like a star. Viernes has been playing around in South East Asia like a nomad, most notably for Thai General Equipment in the TBSL/TBL. In the TBSL, Viernes averaged a monster 24.2 points, 4.1 assists, and 4.3 rebounds (FOR A GUY STANDING BARELY 5 AND A HALF FEET).

Photo Credit: Onvisa Thewphaingarm

Seri Mutiara Champions Cup 2017: KK Split

According to their profile submitted in the press release, Split or at least their generation from the 1980s, was considered among the all-time best teams of the world main for their success in winning three straight European Champions.

The glorious days are now mostly in the rear view mirror as KK Split is mounting a comeback to be among Croatia’s greatest clubs again.

Player Roster  Height (CM.) Jersey No.
Mike Scott 185 0
MATE KALAJŽIĆ 187 6
MATEO KEDŽO 203 7
PAVLE MARCINKOVIC 199 12
IVAN OMRČEN 192 10
GABRIJEL MARIĆ 202 11
IVAN VRGOČ 201 21
FILIP NAJEV 205 13
JOSIP JUKIĆ 203 15
DOMAGOJ KANAET 197 17
MARIO ŠPALETA 200 25
HENRIK ŠIRKO 198 31

KK Split’s import is Mike Scott (no, not the NBA Player who is now playing with the Washington Wizards). Scott played collegiately at Idaho for his final two seasons of eligibility averaging 14.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in his senior year. He also played in the same league as KK Split, but for a different team last season, averaging 13.2 points and 5.7 assists.

Mate Kalajzic is highly rated by the club, despite being only 19 years old. The club was confident enough of the youngster to note that “Mate is the on-court general leading the offense for KK Split. When he’s at his best, KK Split is a hard team to beat anywhere in the world”.

The star if the team will no doubt be Henrik Sirko who is praised as the club’s new hero. Sirko is the leading scoring of the team and has been lauded for his clutch heroics and stat-stuffing ways an-

You know what? Just watch the video:

That’s Sirko singlehandedly bringing his team back from a huge deficit to force overtime on a crazy and wild miss-the-free-throw-get-the-rebound-dribble-back-out-for-a-game-tying three.

(Okay, so it would have been better if he hit the front end of the free throws.)

(KK Split also noted that this highlight video had “billions” of views on Youtube. The one I posted currently has 70.1K LOL)


Seri Mutiara Champions Cup 2017: Fubon Braves

The Braves should take pride in themselves for having the least cheesiest logo in the Taiwanese SBL (which wasn’t actually tough competition). Sadly enough, having a cool logo and solid branding has yet to have resulted in an SBL title so far in their franchise, despite plenty of close encounters.

Player Roster  Height (CM.) Jersey No.
Joseph Lin Shu Wei  183 1
Chang Tsung Hsien 193 3
Sung Yu Hsuan 185 5
Chang Po Wei 190 7
Huang Yu-Sen 183 9
Chang Shu Wei 190 8
Tsai Wen Cheng 190 14
Lin Chih Wei 200 15
Kao Chien Yi 185 31
Hung Chih Shan 176 24
Yang Hsing Chih 193 28
Liu Weir Chern 190 30
Garret Siler 211 33
John Bohannon 211 22
Li Ying Fong 193 23

The Braves have recruited Garret Siler who was a Finals MVP in the Taiwan SBL back in 2015. Prior to that, the 7-foot BIG man also played in a couple of games for the Phoenix Suns as well as in China and Venezuela.

Fubon’s other import is 25-year-old John Bohannon who was a highly efficient player at UTEP with career averages of 9.6 points and 6.6 rebounds throughout his career. He continued to do his stuff in the NBA G-League for the Erie Bayhawks and the Delaware 87ers averaged 8.0 points amd 7.5 boards.

With those two giants anchoring the paint, the Braves can leave perimeter scoring to their star locals, Tsai Wen-Cheng and Joseph Lin.

The 32-year-old Wen-Cheng recently played in the EABA Championship 2017 (where Chinese-Taipei were crowned Champions) and averaged 8.0 points and 4.4 rebounds. The Braves depict their captain’s career as a true underdog story where he wasn’t a superstar in college (as most Taiwanese stars do) but continuously proved his worth in the minor league levels. He’s a two-time SBL Champion and a veteran National Team player who some regard as a player who is as valuable as an import in the SBL. He averaged 13.4 points and 6.6 rebounds for the Braves last season.

Photo Credit: FIBA

Joseph Lin in none other than the younger brother of Jeremy Lin, who has just wrapped up his second season in the SBL. He averaged 10.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.9 assists on his way to becoming an All-Star. The 2015-2016 SBL Rookie of the Year should continue to star in the league for many seasons to come. Too bad the term “Linsanity” was already coined in honor for this other kid who used to play for the New York Knicks.


Seri Mutiara Champions Cup 2017 Group B: Things to Look For

Someone making a bad Joe Lin/Jeremy Lin joke.
Henrik Sirko making a ridiculous clutch shot.
Jeff Viernes confusing all opposing players who are wondering if NS Matrix were serious about playing this dude.
The inevitable Ray Chen/Joe Lin showdown.
Garret Siler breaking the hoop on a dunk.
People intentionally mentioning only Mike Scott when talking about KK Split because he’s the only person whose name is easy to pronounce.


Check out the Preview for Teams in Group A here!

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