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iECO Green Warriors eye spot in Asean Basketball League

The iECO Green Warriors are looking beyond the 2018 Asia League Terrific 12 basketball tournament that kicks off in Macau on Sept. 18.

iECO coach Ariel Vanguardia said the tournament in Macau could serve as a tryout for the players as Green Warriors' owner Dioceldo Sy looks to a possible appearance in the Asean Basketball League's 2019 season.

"Hopefully, we do good [in Macau] because we're trying to join the ABL for this season. We had a meeting with [ABL chief operating officer] Jericho Ilagan last Thursday and now, we're just waiting for their reply if we're welcome," Vanguardia told ESPN5.

Should it happen, a team composed of the core of 2018 PBA D-League Foundation Cup champion Go For Gold will serve as the second Philippine club team in the ABL. Reigning champion San Miguel-Alab Pilipinas is the other club.

"We are still studying and evaluating their participation," Ilagan said. "Over the course of next week, hopefully, we'll come to a decision if they can join this coming season or the next. As we evaluate new teams coming in, we also want to ensure that we have the best interest of the teams we already have on board."

But while they await ABL's decision on their application, Vanguardia intends to focus first on developing iECO into a title-contending team for the Terrific 12.

The Green Warriors though will have their work cut out for them as they are bracketed at a talented-laden Group C with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers from the Chinese Basketball Association as well as Japanese club team Ryuku Golden Kings.

The Tigers, who won the 2017 CBA title behind Gilas natualized player Andray Blatche, are aiming for the Terrific 12 crown after bringing in NBA veteran Al Jefferson.

The 6-foot-10 Jefferson, the 15th overall pick by the Boston Celtics in the 2004 NBA Draft, will get plenty of help from Abudushalamu Abudurexiti -- a vital cog in China's recent 2018 Asian Games gold-medal run in Jakarta - and veteran Li Gen and American-Bulgarian reinforcement Darius Adams.

Adams averaged over 40 points per contest in the CBA in 2017 and his offense, coupled by Jefferson's strong inside plays easily makes the Flying Tigers the team to beat in the weeklong tournament in Macau.

The 33-year-old Jefferson owns NBA career averages of 15.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.2 blocks after playing for the Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, Utah Jazz, Charlotte Hornets and the Indiana Pacers.

The Japanese ball club Ryuku is no pushover either with athletic naturalized player Ira Brown, Jeff Ayres, an NBA veteran who played for the Portland Trailblazers, the Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs and the LA Clippers in a six-year stint, and former Colorado standout Josh Scott leading the way.

"These are heavyweight teams we will be facing, but then we also play a different brand of basketball so we just have to run the break," added Vanguardia.

The 12-team tournament will be divided into four groups of three squads each. Only the top team from each group will advance to the semis after the single-round group stage. The two winners from the knockout semis advance to the finals on Sept. 23 to dispute the championship. iECO is bringing in the core of Go For Gold squad led by Gab Banal, Ron Dennison, Matt Salem, Kris Porter and Jai Reyes.

Vanguardia also tapped the services of Fil-Americans Joshua Munzon and Avery Scharer, while Mark Cruz and James Sena will add depth after being loaned by Blackwater to iECO.

Former TNT import Richard Howell and Sam Logwood will serve as iECO's reinforcements in Macau.

Jefferson is not the only former NBA veteran participating in the tournament.

Marreesse Speights, 31, is coming off a stint with the Orlando Magic this past NBA season and will man the middle for the Guanzhou Long Lions, who will be using the Terrific 12 as their final preparation before plunging into the 2019 Chinese Basketball Association season.

The 6-foot-10 Speights, who owns NBA career averages of 7.9 points and 4.5 rebounds in a seven-year stint, was also a member of the 2015 NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

Meanwhile, NBA journeyman Andrew Goudelock will try to bring in his scoring prowess to the Shandong Xiwang squad.

Selected 46th overall by the Lakers in 2011 NBA Draft, the 29-year-old guard out of Charleston, comes in with impressive credentials after being named the NBA D-League MVP in 2013, the EuroCup MVP in 2014, along with championships in the professional leagues of Israel and Italy, respecrtively the last two years.

Providing competition against these NBA veterans are 2014 PBA Commissioner's Cup champion and Best Import Richard Howell, South Korean naturalized big man Ricardo Ratliffe, who previously served as import for Magnolia in the PBA, ex-GlobalPort (now NorthPort) import Markeith Cummings and former La Salle center Ben Mbala.

Howell has been tapped to reinforce Philippine ball club iECO Green Warriors, while Ratliffe will play for Ulsan Hyundai Mobis Phoebus from the Korean Basketball League.

Cummings, known for his dunks and strong inside plays, will see action for the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins while Mbala has been tapped by the Samsung Thunders.