Merlion Cup 2017 Preview: Group B

We’re still reeling from an exciting Seri Mutiara Cup but basketball never stops! Heading a little further down south of Kuala Lumpur will be the Merlion Cup which will be held in Singapore during 20-24 September! Let’s check out the preview for the teams in Group B of the tournament!This is the second consecutive year that the Merlion Cup will be held after it’s revival from a long hibernation last season. The event was well-received and it was no surprise when it was announced that the Merlion Cup would be returning this year.

After hosting 6 teams last year (with the Shanghai Sharks crowned as champions), the Merlion Cup has added one more team to the total roster this season. The teams are put into two groups who will play each other in a Single-Round Robin format. The top two teams in each group will play in a knockout round playoff while the 3 bottom teams will play in 5th to 7th place qualification games.

Group A Group B
Shanghai Sharks (China) Adelaide 36ers (Australia)
Satria Muda Pertamina (Indonesia) Yulon Luxgen Dinos (Chinese-Taipei)
Jeonju KCC Egis (Korea) Singapore Slingers (Singapore)
NLEX-SCTEX (Philippines)

With a solid balance from East Asian teams and South East Asian teams (and Hello to Oceania!) this was setting up to be a very interesting tournament.

Teams are allowed 3 foreign imports on the court at the same time.

Let’s preview the teams in Group B first!

Merlion Cup 2017: Group B

Adelaide 36ers (Australia)

Jersey No. Player Name
1 Matthew Hodgson
3 Ronald Roberts
7 Brendan Teys
8 Nelson Larkins
10 Ramone Moore
12 Shannon Shorter
13 Majok Deng
19 Adam Doyle
20 Nathan Sobey
21 Daniel Johnson
22 Anthony Drmic
55 Mitchell Creek

The Adelaide 36ers finished with the best record in the NBL last season (17-11) and though they failed to make it to the Finals, they are already the best team in the Merlion Cup playing field by far.

I’m only going to be mentioning the three imports – Ronald RobertsRamone Moore, and Shannon Shorter – in passing here, just because the Aussie talent level on it’s own is already interesting enough.

Photo Credit: FIBA

Both Mitchell Creek and Matthew Hodgson were on the Australian National Team that almost sleepwalked their way to winning the FIBA Asia Cup 2017 title. Creek led the team in scoring (14.7) and was third in rebounds (5.2) for a well-balanced team. Hodgson was the main big man leading the team in rebounds (6.6).

Photo Credit: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

Nathan Sobey and Daniel Johnson didn’t make the National Team this summer, but have been quite busy themselves nonetheless. Shortly after finishing his NBL Most Improved Player of the year season where he piled in 15.4 points (8th in NBL), 5.0 rebounds, and 4.1 assists, the 26-year-old signed on a loan deal to play with Greece basketball powerhouse, PAOK. Johnson, (who won the NBL Most Improved Player award himself in 2012) who averaged 15.0 points (10th in NBL) and 7.1 rebounds (3rd in NBL), signed to play with Iranian powerhouse Petrochimi.

Last but not least is 2016-2017 NBL Rookie of the Year, Anthony Drmic.

Drmic had a modest 6.0 points and 3.2 rebounds for the 36ers, but expect that to change fast. Drmic was a highly-regard scorer when he was playing in NCAA Division 1 basketball for Boise State and it shouldn’t take much time for him to get to that level in the NBL.

What to Expect

With this roster, anything less than a championship means they went out partying and getting wasted every night during their stay in Singapore.

Yulon Luxgen Dinos (Chinese-Taipei)

Jersey No. Player Name
4 Ko Min-Hao
7 Chen Shih-Nien
8 Chou Po-Chen
11 Pan Kuan-Han
12 Hu Kai-Hsiang
13 Lu Cheng-Ju
15 Chou Shih-Yuan
16 Lin Wei-Han
17 Lu Chieh-Min
18 Wu I-Ping
23 Lu Kuan-Liang
34 Bryan Davis

I don’t know how to take a team that has such a cute logo so seriously… but I’ll try. For all their cuteness and pretty generic uncreative team name, the Dinos have arguably the best track record in Taiwanese Basketball for the past decade and a half. If we can believe Wikipedia (which we do sometimes when we have nowhere else to go), the Dinos won 5 straight titles from 2003-2008 and while they’ve never won since, they’ve always been hanging somewhere among the top. Most recently, they made it all the way to the SBL Finals but were swept by the strong Dacin Tigers.

Leading the way for the Dinos are National Team standouts Lu Cheng-Ju and Chou Po-Chen. 

Lu Cheng-Ju’s performance has dropped in the recent FIBA Asia Cup 2017 (4.8 points and 2.8 rebounds), but the sharpshooting 31-year-old is still a top scorer for his club team (11.8 points in SBL).

Photo Credit: FIBA

Chou Po-Chen is a big body for the team which is something they are going to need, fielding only one import going up against bigger teams. He averaged 6.5 points and 4.0 rebounds in the FIBA Asia Cup 2017 and a healthy 9.9 points and 5.5 rebounds in the SBL.

The Dino’s import is Bryan Davis, who had a stellar though underrated time playing at Texas A&M with career averages of 7.9 points and 5.6 rebounds. He has since gone around playing Korea, Belgium, Poland, New Zealand, and Ukraine among other places.

What to Expect

I’m torn. Kinmen Kaoliang Liquor played pretty badly in last year’s Merlion Cup and that made it hard for me to trust Taiwan Clubs in an internationally setting. Then I saw the Fubon Braves in the Seri Mutiara Champions Cup 2017 who were really entertaining, but they still finished at 7th place.

I surely don’t trust them to beat the 36ers, but the level of play I’ve seen from other Taiwanese clubs makes me doubt if the Dinos can even beat the Singapore Slingers in their opening match.

Singapore Slingers (Singapore)

Jersey No. Player Name
1 Lim Jun Yuan
2 Desmond Oh
3 Mikee Reyes
5 Wong Wei Long
6 Tay Ding Loon
8 Toh Qing Huang
10 Leon Kwek
15 Xavier Alexander
17 Ng Hanbin
23 Delvin Goh
32 Russel Low
35 Ryan Wright

We’ve gotten so used to seeing the same Singapore Slingers team over the past two years with minor tweaks here and there that it’s going to feel so strange watching them this year.

Life after Justin Howard as a Singapore Slinger is just… unimaginable.

Howard’s contract expired after the last ABL season and Coach Neo Beng Siang has brought in his potential replacement, Ryan Wright, to trial in this Merlion Cup. The feedback from practices have been positive so far, where mostly everyone has been raving about his athleticism and how he fits with their shifting style towards a running game. Leon Kwek even mentioned that Wright has already broken one of the rims at OCBC Arena during his first practices.

If Wright is really as good as advertised once the games tipoff, it could change the Slingers into a different team. We’ve watched as the Slingers slowed down the pace set up in the halfcourt to maximize Howard’s skills over the past year which has worked well. However, it’s also interesting to see how much better they can get by pushing the tempo even more, getting Xavier Alexander in the open court and pressing harder on defense.

Photo Credit: ASEAN Basketball League

That’s also going to depend on how Filipino guard Mikee Reyes fits in with the system. The Slingers spent the entire year going through a carousel of Heritage imports, but never struck gold like they did with Kris Rosales two seasons ago. Rosales was a lockdown defender and he knew how to pick his shots on offense and control the tempo. Coach Neo will be looking for similar production from Reyes along with some additional offensive firepower too.

Photo Credit: Onvisa Thewphaingarm

The biggest addition to the Singapore Slingers is Russel Low who is coming off a superb showing SEA Games. While it’s still unconfirmed if Low is coming back just short term or long term with the team, having a player of his size and skill will help anytime.

What to Expect

The Slingers should have just enough to edge past the Dinos for the second spot in the group. Expecting them to beat the 36ers might b a little too hopeful, but it could just depend on how good Wright is and how well he fits in with the team.

Read here for Group A Team Previews!


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