The country’s first full official basketball league season is ready for a launch this Saturday at the multi-purpose indoor facility, the Beeline Arena, located on Chhroy Changvar peninsula just off the Japanese Friendship Bridge.
Sanctioned by the Cambodian Basketball Federation, the Cambodian Basketball League involving a 12-team roster is presented by global money transfer operators Western Union as the title sponsors. Coca-Cola is one of the leading co-sponsors of the league, which stretches up to mid-December over a spread of 70 matches, most of which will be played on Saturdays.
A three-man technical panel comprising of CBF representatives Kanaly and former national coach Austin
Koledoye along with CBL co-ordinator Michael Dibbern will run the show in the biggest structured domestic basketball competition the Kingdom has ever known.
“At a recent meeting of all 12 team managers with the organising panel, several key steps on registration of players, competition regulations and the order of the games were formalised to ensure smooth running of the season,” Dibbern, who is also head coach of Phnom Penh Dragons, told the Post yesterday.
Teams can register up to 15 players for the competition. Every player, coach and manager will be licensed by the CBF. Once registered, players cannot change teams and no new players will be allowed to join.
A draw of lots in which every manager picked a number was undertaken to determine the order of games that the teams play in the lead-up to the play-offs.
The 12 competing teams were numbered in the following order: 1. Phnom Penh Dragons, 2. Cellcard Eagles, 3. Alaxan FR Patriots, 4. NSK Dream, 5. Extra Joss Warriors, 6. Post Buffaloes, 7. Galaxy, 8. Pate 310, 9. Sela Meas, 10. Ganzberg, 11. IRB The Lord, 12. CCPL Heat.
To light up the stands and create a buzz among the spectators, dribbling and shooting contests for the audience will be held during half-time breaks with T-shirts and caps as giveaway prizes.
The CBL contenders:
Predominantly expat, the Eagles have Australians, Americans and a New Zealander in their mix. At two metres, Keith Kelly is the tallest in a team where most players are 190cm and above. The team’s average age is about 35.
Sean Looney, who played a key part in Sabay Salty Crabs’ title win in the Cambodian Basketball Challenge last year is one of the key members.
An average height of 175cm makes this all-Khmer team the shortest, but speed is the team’s forte. The players have played with each other for years but they are more used to pick up games rather than five-on-five on full court. Average age: 26
Phnom Penh Dragons
A multinational pot of Cambodians and foreigners. Three locals, four French, four Americans, one Russian, one Brit and a Japanese. Average height of 180cm, the Dragons are a youthful lot with an average age of 25. Players to watch include Ben Laird, Leng Seng. Matsuk Nishikawa and Erik Laughlin.
While Cambodians make up the bulk of the team, there are four Americans, two French, a Korean and an Australian blending into the team that can trouble the best with their speed.
Height-wise Buffaloes boast of a 177cm average. One of the key players will be Jason Roden (US, 195cm, 101kg) who used to play college basketball in California. Watch out for Kosal Khiev and his quick, unconventional moves. Average age: 33.
IRB The Lord
All Cambodian side and one of the pre-event favourites, with most part of the Challenge-winning Salty Crabs team last year. National team players Kim Vengoun and Monh Ratana stand out.
Known for quick transitions, three-point shooting is their main strength.
With just a few foreigners thrown in, the Heat can generate a lot of it on court. Pepe and Pagna have national team experience. A strong play-offs prospect.
Extra Joss Warriors
A strong overseas presence makes the Warriors a strong proposition for the top tier. Dominated by Filipinos, the team has three Americans, an
Indonesian, a Nigerian and a Brit.
Chris Bolado at just under two metres tall and 109 kilograms could be the Warriors spearhead. This former professional from the Philippines is 43 but he still is an inspiring element.
Alaxan FR Patriots
One of the market fancies for the championship. A talented bunch of Filipinos plus two Americans and as many Australians. The team has a proven record as Raid-Alaxan in last year’s Challenge.
They have roped in three new players from Sharky – Colin Meyn (1.98m), Curran Hendry (1.98m) and Jeffrey Cane (1.88m). Aimar Sabayo who made such a good impression last season will be the team’s hitman.
A perfect local blend, the team created a ripple or two in the Challenge. If they play to their full potential, they are capable of troubling the best.
The youngest team with an average of just 23 years in the roster, this outfit can bring joyous spirit to its local followers. The size of the team may be small at an average of 1.80m but their resolve is quite high. Ouch Sokpanha at 1.90m is one player who could make a huge difference.
A team full of Filipinos feared for their full offence but a bit short on defending skills. Jerry Roxas has one of the best three point rates, while Jeff Cruz is speedy when it comes to one-on one and Emman Quiriz is arguably one of the best point guards.
Interestingly, all these three players were with Phnom Penh Dragons last season.
To be precise, a Chinese Galaxy made up of players from the Asian IT consultancy giants. At 195cm and quick on his foot, Kelvin Chan could lead the hunt.
Only when this Chinese Dragon is tickled do we know how dangerous it could be.