Local basketball fans will be hoping the exodus of stars such as Lin “the Beast” Chih-jeh, (Taiwan Beer), Chen Hsin-an (Yulon Luxgens) and most recently Lee Hsueh-lin (Luxgens) from the Super Basketball League (SBL) to China’s higher-paying Chinese Basketball Association will not be felt too strongly over the course of the new season that starts today.
First up this afternoon at the Taipei County Sports Complex in Sinjhuang is a showdown between Pure Youth Construction and the new-and-improved Taiwan Mobile Leopards, with Leopards fans looking forward to seeing Su Shiang-yi in action. The versatile guard was signed from the Dacin Tigers in the summer after reports that he might also have been on his way to China.
Taiwan Mobile will also be able to call on the services of former Oklahoma State standout Marcus Dove, whose impressive resume includes the Defensive Player of the Year honor in the Big 12 Conference two years in a row in 2006 and 2007. He will help anchor a Leopard interior defense that has struggled to stop opponents’ low-post game in the past.
Meanwhile, Pure Youth Construction have brought in big man Rashad Jones-Jennings from the US to fill the spot vacated by Jonathan Sanders.
Turning to the other teams in the league, Taiwan Beer’s offseason acquisition of former Kinmen Liquor forward Cheng Ren-wei and Emmanuel Jones of the US to complement a frontcourt trio consisting of Wu Dai-hao, Doug Creighton and Yang Jing-min should make them the team to beat even with the departure of “the Beast.”
“We are quite certain that this will be the year for us with all the added help we got during the offseason,” Taiwan Beer assistant coach Liu Hua-lin said in the season-opening press conference in Taipei on Thursday afternoon.
Liu and his crew will also enjoy the leadership of point guard Chen Shih-nian and shooting guard Yang Yu-ming, not to mention swingman Ho Sho-cheng, who can play four of the five positions on the floor and has a deadly perimeter game to go with his underrated low-post moves.
While the “Brew Crew” are clearly the preseason favorites to win the title, the Tigers will feature a potent starting five featuring newly signed Keith Gayden of the US, who came highly recommended by his predecessor, Byron Allen, after playing 15 games with in Mexico with the Panteras de Aguascalientes.
In addition to Gayden, Dacin will also have the services of a healthy Tien Lei, who is coming off a solid showing for Taiwan at this year’s Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, hoping to forget a subpar campaign filled with nagging injuries last season.
One of the more intriguing stories in the upcoming season involves the decision by the defending champs, the Yulon Luxgens, to do without a foreign player for the eighth straight season.
This could have more of a negative effect this year, as Yulon will sorely miss the penetration and court vision of departed point guard Lee Hsueh-lin.
“Forget about [defending the title], we don’t even know if we can make the playoffs this year with A-ding [star center Tseng Wen-ding] unsigned,” skipper Chang Hsueh-lei said earlier this week about the uncertain status of Tseng, who has also been tempted by a move to China.
Although Tseng has said he would be staying in Taiwan and would likely re-sign with Yulon for at least one more season, Lee’s absence will likely take a toll on the Luxgens’ quest to repeat their success of last season, even with the offseason addition of forward Wu Jien-long, who demonstrated steady improvement in his three-year stint with Pure Youth.