|SEPTEMBER 5, 2007 (8:00AM) -- I've been around a long time and with all due respect to all my fellow tournament directors, each year the AANC field just gets better and better. Sure, we have yet to see it all play out on the court, but in anticipation, I can confidently say that this is the strongest field I've ever seen in any Asian amateur tournament.|
Mark my words, if your team goes winless in this tournament, you're still better than 90% of the other teams out there. This is the one tournament where there's no way you're gonna be waltzing thru the pool. We've already weeded out all those teams. This is a tournament of champions.
And yet, we still have a few teams that I know on a personal basis, that for whatever reason cannot make it this time around. But let's talk very briefly about the teams that are coming (in order of random pool assignments)...
HAWAII CHOSEN FEW -- Hawaiian/Japanese team led by point guard John Lane, former D-1 player, and 6'5" wide-body version of Tim Duncan, Leandro Maruoka. They also have wide-body guards and small forwards who just seem to hit big shots even though they don't have the typical athletic frames for it. Last time I saw them was at the venerable LA Tigers tournament, which they won in overtime against the legendary scrappy team, the Alpine Striders.
LAS VEGAS ACES -- Tons of talent on this mostly-Filipino team, led by strong small forward TJ Valera and power forward Michael Carboni. Big guard Randy Saramosing can get hot on the wing too.
UPTEMPO (HAYWARD) -- Veteran Filipino squad led by legendary shooters Vince Encelan and Joel Sales. They have a long history in the Filipino community, notorious for their teamwork and deliberate style of play. They are getting older and probably won't outrun anybody in our field, so it remains to be seen how adept their halfcourt game is.
LA SHOWTIME -- Even with the loss of Ryan Reyes and Rich Cole to the pro leagues in the Philippines, I remember them being a very deep squad -- new stars will rise. Mostly Filipino, but Kevin Sohn looked more Korean. Scott Domingo was the MVP from last year's AANC, a strong forward down low with plenty of post moves. Look for point guard Lance Convento to step up in Reyes' absence.
SHOOTOUT (NORCAL) -- I sort of renamed them and took out the "South Bay" to avoid confusion with the South Bay LA team. JoJo Pierce is the heart of this run-n-gun team, which stuck close with LA Showtime until the 4th quarter back in February. TJ Hawkins anchors the front line, which is now bolstered a bit by the acquisition of Sunny Margate (thus the absence of Margate's Driven team from last year). Margate's Ryan Cruz might be out with a thumb injury, though. That puts the style of play right back into the gunners Ryan Mateo and Seve Nocon. Yes, I know this team quite well.
SOUTH BAY LA -- I really don't know much about this team except that they beat the revamped Shootout at the big Delano Filipino tournament nearly a month ago in the semifinals. Led by captain Rodel Dulay. I am very much looking forward to getting to know their impact players, as much as my time permits.
3GS (LA) -- This team was led by Chad Brown and Jaymar last year when they lost barely to LA Showtime in the semifinals. I didn't get a chance to catch their other games all that much. They might have a different roster this time around, who knows.
CALI FRANCHISE (SACTO) -- I've never seen this team play, but I've heard about their key player and captain, Paul Phangureh. Last year this UC Davis varsity player was picked up by the storied IndoPak franchise, the California Shockwaves (who have done well in dreamleague tourneys) and became MVP of a few tournaments that put the Shockwaves back on top of the IndoPak hill last year. Then he was a part of the team that made IndoPak community history by becoming the first team from the USA to win the Vancouver IndoPak nationals. Can't wait to see this squad.
ARIZONA DESERT JADE -- Well, they're not really all from Arizona. This mostly-Chinese team is a mashup of Arizona, some cousins who are originally from Washington DC, and now two guys from the Bay Area. It's led by Jamal "Fruity" Brooks, who can light it up from inside and out. Then there's David Clarke who's an athletic three and a new pickup Steve Chang, another athletic three, from the Bay. They also have sharpshooter Keith Wang, who now splits his time with the highly ranked NorCal Hoopaholics. Top them off with a pair of sibling point guards who have tons of experience. Apparently Arizona's center is now in shape, so this will be the strongest Arizona has ever been.
DREAMLEAGUE ALL-STARS (SF/NYC) -- A totally revamped all-star squad from dreamleague's SF/Oakland/Peninsula league. Literally the entire starting five has moved on, some to the Hoopaholics, some to new careers. But the new squad marches to a new beat led by Chinese point guard (yet Filipino league veteran) Vince Chooi and table-setter Taraz Lee. There's up-and-comer Johnny Liu and Chinese Nationals veteran Mike Reding from the wings. And Kevin Sagong from LA -- currently a Davis student -- anchoring the post along with Filipino league living legend Mark Scates. The team gets blessed with the addition of the LA Tigers' all-world power forward Nic Echevestre on Sunday, who tags along with former Alpine Strider Brian Yang, now dreamleague NYC's commish. On paper, the most talented assembly of dreamleague players to date, but let's see how they gel as a team.