UTSUNOMIYA, JAPAN—TNT plunges into action right away when the East Asia Super League (EASL) Champions’ Week gets going on Wednesday.
The Tropang Giga, runners-up of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup, have their work cut out for themselves as they tackle B.League champion Utsunomiya Brex on their home turf here without Roger Pogoy and Mikey Williams, who are both injured.
“We’ll just compete and see what happens,” said interim coach Jojo Lastimosa, who will instead rely on big import Daniel Ochefu, and the returning backup Jalen Hudson for the bulk of the club’s scoring.
Tipoff is at 6:30 p.m. (Manila time) and TNT is looking to get things going for the two-club Philippine delegation that hopes to bag the $250,000 prize (about P14 million).
San Miguel Beer, the all-Filipino champion, won’t be playing until Thursday when it battles a Ryukyu Golden Kings crew backstopped by ex-University of the Philippines star Carl Tamayo and former Meralco import Allen Durham.
The Beermen, flaunting pretty much the same roster it used to win the PBA’s centerpiece tournament, will try to test its championship mettle with Cameron Clark and Jessie Govan as reinforcements.
Yuta Tabuse, the first Japanese player to make the National Basketball Association, will be at the forefront of the Brex’s resistance against TNT. He is set to be joined by former Akatsuki five standout Kosuke Takeuchi and imports Isaac Fotu, Josh Scott and Julian Mavunga.
Taipei Fubon Braves and Anyang KGC take the lid off the regional showcase with the latter featuring Rhenz Abando, the former NCAA Rookie-Most Valuable Player who is now plying his trade in Korea.
Also seeing action in the five-day tournament is Bay Area Dragons, the Hong Kong-based crew that finished second place in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
The Champions Week will culminate in Okinawa on March 5. INQ
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