A full house is expected at the Miaoli County Sports Complex this afternoon for the Super Basketball League season-opener, in which the Yulon Luxgens are scheduled to take on Pure Youth Construction in the start of the brand new hoops season.
All eyes will be focused on the new-and-improved Builders, who acquired former Yulon icon Chen “Airman” Hsin-an in a multi-year deal to help lead the young team to their first ever league title.
Chen, once considered Taiwan’s first legitimate prospect to join the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a member of the Sacramento Kings, has played for the Luxgens as well as the Dongguan Leopards of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) in China. He will undoubtedly bring experience and leadership that the Builders had previously lacked to make them the team to beat this season.
Also joining Chen will be small forward Doug Creighton, whose return to the Builders, after having played for Bank of Taiwan and Taiwan Beer, is especially meaningful as he comes full circle to the team that originally brought him into the league.
Creighton is expected to have a lot of open-shot opportunities this season with opposing teams likely to double up on Chen, who will look to dump off the ball on the perimeters.
As for the Luxgens, the departure of All-Star center Tseng Wen-ding, arguably the league’s best true-center, and Lee Hsueh-lin, the starting point guard on Taiwan’s national team — both of whom had opted to move to the CBA during the offseason — will most definitely take its toll in the league’s early stages. Rookie head coach Chiou Chi-yi is attempting to corral the team around veteran point guard Chen Chih-chung and three-point threat Lu Cheng-rue, his two most reliable weapons over the years.
The addition of big man Kevin Johnson of the US is set to soften the blow the absence of Tseng and Lee has created, as he becomes more familiar with a tried and tested Yulon system that has won them four titles in eight seasons.
In the second game of the opening day, the defending champs Taiwan Beer are scheduled to take on the Dacin Tigers in a rematch of last season’s Championship Finals.
Similar to the Luxgens, the Brew Crew also lost their top inside threat, Wu Dai-hao, to the CBA and will be forced to go with a smaller lineup headed by forward Yang Jing-min.
Even though the addition of veteran guard Wu Yong-ren will bring depth and experience to the Taiwan Beer backcourt with incumbents Yang Yu-ming and Chen Shih-nian, skipper Yen Jia-hua is troubled by the fact that he still has not found a replacement for Wu among the many foreign players who have tried out for the job.
It will be US newcomer Dennis Carr’s (2m, 110kg) chance in the opening weekend to show whether he can stay with the Brew Crew.
Should things not work out with Carr, Yen would most likely bring back Emmanuel Jones (1.93m, 90kg) who played in the team last season and was not re-signed by Taiwan Beer because of a size disadvantage.
The game will be the Tigers’ to lose, as they put a fully recovered Tien Lei on the floor for the first time in nearly two years to team up with newcomer Noel Felix, which could mean double trouble for their opponents this season.