2008 LA Showcase Tourney ELITE (Los Angeles)
Rosters and previews
|MARCH 1, 2008 (7:15AM) -- Updated completely. See you in less than 2 hours!|
FEBRUARY 29, 2008 (8:00AM) -- This is gonna be quick because I really don't have much time to post anything. Let's see, I suppose I can break up the list of teams into the following: (1) those I know have won or came close to winning a notable tournament recently, and (2) those who have not.
Hopefully I can kill two birds with one stone by putting teams' rosters -- as available -- below.
RECENT CHAMPIONSHIP WINNERS
Bay Area Wizards: In terms of joining any given tourney, they are sometimes hit or miss, but when they join, usually they have a stable of athletic half-black half-Filipino ex-PBA-prospect players. This usually puts them over the top. These players include Phil Newton, Kenny Evans, Nate Payne and Robyn Edwards. Guard/forward Newton was the only one of that bunch who made it to Fairfield last December to help the Wizards win another championship -- they also had TJ Hawkins, who will be back with the Stockton Ballers this weekend, anchoring the middle. They beat the Heads, who beat the Dream League team in overtime in the semifinals. Prior to that, Solomon Mercado (pure Filipino, btw), who was last heard trying out for the Toront Raptors in the summer (not here this weekend), helped the Wizards beat a revamped Dream League team at the Hayward Showtime tournament. The pickup of Julian Ramos from the Heads for this tourney is also a good move in bolstering the defensive presence. Chris Tenoso is usually solid down low. And I personally thought that the aging Jeremy Dela Cruz slowing down the tempo a bit (because of the age) at the point has been a surprise advantage for this team.
Jeremy Dela Cruz
Phil Newton -- approved per PBA ethnicity standards
Kenny Evans -- approved per PBA ethnicity standards
Nate Payne -- approved per PBA ethnicity standards
Robyn Edwards -- approved per PBA ethnicity standards
PacRimSports: They recently won the Japanese/Asian Imperials tournament in December. In the LA area they have a strong reputation as one of the top long-standing teams alongside the Chinese/Vietnamese Alpine Striders and the Japanese Tigers, to whom they lost in the championship at the Japanese/Asian Mofufus tourney. They finally took one of those non-Filipino tourneys (Imperials) for which they get a special invite. In the Filipino circuit itself, they usually can tap PBA- or college D1-level talent similar to that of the Wizards, although not as much during college bball season. They have had an influence on the Jacksonville team winning the East Coast PIBNA tournament twice in a row, as they share college D1-level players with Jacksonville. I don't have a roster as my talks with coach/GM Don Raymundo have all been about running the tourney itself, but I do know that they have a 6'6" center coming and Lance Convento, the big point guard from the LA Showtime franchise, which recently sent two key players to the PBA/PBL (otherwise Showtime would be playing in this tourney). Let's not forget the quick point guard Mario Thompson (black/Filipino) and one player under the radar who I like: small forward Shawn Gonzales. Guard Robby Rivera torched the Dream League team in the Mofufus tourney. Looks like center Jay Arizabal will be playing for Long Beach, though.
Arizona Desert Jade: In September, captain Edward Yee's team accomplished a difficult task: winning the cutthroat Japanese Vegas Invitational tourney. 6'3" inside-outside forward Fruity Brooks, half-black half-Chinese, was the clear-cut MVP in that tourney, but he will not make the trip to LA this weekend. The next day, they entered our "Asian-Am National Championship" playoff round and lost to an upstart Uptempo team. But it's always hard to transition from LVI to the AANC, esp. after winning the LVI. For this tourney, they have their regular crew of "hapas", but aside from swingmen David Clarke and Bennet Woodward, I have not seen Tom Adams or Adam Eichorst play. Don't even know what position they play. Adams played in the Chinese Nationals, which verifies his ethnicity and Clarke and Woodward played in LVI, which has similar stringent requirements. Hank Huang is a solid 4 who has much experience in Asian tourneys, originally the captain of the Minneapolis Lakers team (yes, Asians in Minnesota!) before his move out to Phoenix, then to the Bay Area recently. However, what looms large for me is the absence of Brooks.
David Clarke -- 1/4 Chinese, 1/4 Japanese
Bennet Woodward -- 1/2 Chinese
James Vargo -- Filipino
Tom Adams -- 1/2 Chinese
Adam Eichorst -- 1/2 Japanese
Dream League Bay/East: A mish-mash of top Bay Area talent that play in the home metro of Dream League, this team made a major overhaul earlier in 2007 due to players leaving the area and some joining other teams. Even the team that lost to the Wizards back in Hayward in June will not be the same here. Won the SF Gold Rush tourney back in December, then went to New Jersey for the Gotham Games and lost to the eventual champion Philly FAY (IndoPak) in the semifinals. However, that team was led by swingman Mike Reding, mobile power forward Gene Cleghorn, and small forward Mike Lee, who are all unavailable for this tournament. Prior to that, the team had a poor showing at Mofufus in October. Prior to that, they lost in the championship to Hawaii Chosen Few at the AANC, a day after a poor showing at the LVI, in which they lost to Arizona (led by Brooks) and Alpine. For AANC, the team picked up super-power-forward Nic Echevestre from the fabled Tigers, which also lost to Arizona. So now, they're back to leaning on the stars Taraz Lee at the big point and Echevestre, along with Ryan Mateo, a shooting guard from South Bay Shootout which sometimes overlaps with the Stockton Ballers. They also have sharpshooter Keith Wang who has played for Arizona in the past (tight with Brooks).
Nic Echevestre -- 1/2 Japanese
Stockton Ballers: They always seem to lose to the Wizards in the semis. Won the Memorial Day Vegas tourney, then lost semifinals (to Wizards) at Hayward Showtime and lost semifinals to the Wizards at Fairfield December. You can't talk about Stockton without talking about JoJo Pierce. He's simply the Charles Barkley (in his prime) of Asian ball. Then you got TJ Hawkins anchoring the paint. Sunny Margate also joins the team and gives them a solid 4, along with his protege Ryan Cruz. Lee Bethea is an athletic swingman. The Hernandez shooting guards will always be challenged as Filipino as opposed to straight Hispanic even if they have documentation, but the way I see it, they've been playing in the Filipino circuit for years, even at the Filipino PIBNA national in Detroit, and sometime long ago someone accepted them into our basketball community. No one will ever know the circumstances of that and I'm sure they just got invited to play so they played. Does that mean teams can now go out and recruit players of Hispanic descent? No. It's a difficult subject matter, esp. in trying to explain this to the newer Asian teams on the scene, but for this tourney we welcome the Stockton Ballers franchise once again.
JoJo Pierce -- black/Filipino
Lee Bethea -- black/Filipino
Bobby Hernandez -- grandfathered
George Hernandez -- grandfathered
Theodore Hawkins -- black/Filipino
KJ Rosales -- black/Filipino
Las Vegas Aces: Probably the best team I have seen who has not yet won a championship, although they don't get many opportunities. Lost to the Stockton Ballers in the Vegas Memorial Day tourney. Then in the AANC in September, lost to the Dream League team, but in pool play, was the only team to beat champion Hawaii Chosen Few, with a thrilling 2OT victory. This is a big team, but not as big this time as they are without Michael Carboni, many-time MVP of the Vegas Asian Leagues, who has work this weekend. Also notably absent is point guard Derek Bughao. Of those here this weekend, Charlie Farber is a rugged inside/outside player and TJ Valera is a versatile player who is sort of a smaller, more finesse version of Carboni. I'm not sure if there's a point guard on the roster, as the remaining names are all rangy, athletic, taller swingmen. And obviously with 7 players, they are not deep. The last two on the list were not on the final roster.
Charlie Farber -- Filipino/Russian
TJ Valera -- Filipino
Steph Allen -- Filipino/Black
Tyler McReady -- 1/2 Japanese
California Shockwaves: This highly regarded IndoPak franchise made an incredible run in the IndoPak circuit in 2006. Last year, they took a step back as captain and Scottie Pippen-like (in his prime) Himanshu Singh suffered a year-long injury. I saw the rangy 6'4" Vivek Vinjamur before he hit is prime, and now he's in his prime so I can't wait to see him play again. The rest of the squad are all IndoPak, although we don't have their names. There's probably one more star player in the mix that I haven't familiarized myself with since the "Shox" played in our tournament two years ago, before their historic IndoPak circuit run. I'm concerned that Singh may not be himself with his recent injuries. But I have much respect for the IndoPak circuit and the amount of traveling teams do, so they are battle-tested and will surely show up with some talent.
East Bay Cardinals: Coach Jones Wu is a living legend and nobody knows it yet. He always takes kids from Oakland's inner-city and molds them into future mature Asian basketball stars. Then through his own players, he can add talent here and there to fill in the spaces. This may be his best group yet, but then again sometimes his young players get the deer-in-the-headlights syndrome. The team is led by Johnson Bui at the point and smallish center Andrew Lee. Add former Dream League teamer Ross Lim and Huy Nguyen, then renowned Chinese Nationals tournament power forward Dennis Yuen, and you have a solid starting five. However, perimeter players Karl Gusner and Vannack Phann are unavailable this weekend.
1. Johnson Bui (#22)
2. Andrew Lee (#53)
3. Ross Lim (#13)
4. Huy Nguyen (#45)
5. Henry Chhiv (#21)
6. Brad Nakano (#10)
7. Tony Tran (#52)
8. Dennis Yuen (#11)
9. Victor Vonphrachanh (#41)
10. Nam Le (#25)
Hotshots (Hayward): The next generation, led by the son of legendary Joel Sales (who is still playing), Joel Sales, Jr., of the Uptempo Filipino tournament team. I'm not sure what other young talent is here for this tournament, perhaps the steady Jimmy Noriega at the point and up-and-coming shooting guard Nick Wong, but Ryan Cruz is already playing for Margate on Stockton. Sales Sr. and fellow living/playing/scoring legend Vince Encelan score from outside and Chris Guintu and the undersized but overpowering Rommel Canon clean up the boards.
Joel Sales, Jr.
Fo' Show (Seattle): I hardly know anything about this team, but captain Paul Koura, who once played in Dream League Bay Area in the middle divisions, said that four of his players used to play for the 3-time Chinese Nationals champions Seattle Bladerunners, which accomplished their feat in 4 years. That's not easy to do. But the biggest names from that mini-dynasty, point guard Song Cun and 6'7" swingman Kyle Kiang are not on the roster. Even though I'm a Chinese Nationals vet, I never got a chance to see the Bladerunners play, so I'm eager to see the rest of them here this weekend.
San Diego 619ers: The last time I saw San Diego at the Hayward Showtime tourney, they had superstar 6'3" small forward James Francisco who was clearly head and shoulders above the talent, perhaps except for the Wizards' Mercado. One of the teams San Diego lost to was my Dream League squad by a healthy margin, and Galang & Co. gave us props, but I must say ours was a different squad than now, and quite frankly that team played the best game that any team has ever played for me, esp. since we had the benefit of no shotclock. So that was a bit of a flash in the pan from my point of view and probably a quick little dip in the pulse for the San Diegans. Still, captain Roger Galang and power forward Jeff Espiritu just didn't seem as on top of their games as in previous years. This time, Francisco is away at Chaminade playing D-1 ball. I'm not sure who else can fill such a void, but we'll see.
Runningunz (Sacramento): After a subpar showing getting eliminated by the Hotshots in December's SF Gold Rush tourney, captain Arsh Johl has vowed to bring a better team. I still haven't gotten a good look at this team, but one thing I do remember is that guard Manpreet Arman can score. Below, there are quite a few new players (not marked with asterisk) as opposed to players returning from the early-exit December tourney team (marked with asterisk). The name Paul Bains rings a bell and might be a stalwart IndoPak tourney player. There's probably someone else on the list below who will make their mark here this weekend.
Davis Dynasty: An up-and-coming team that most recently struggled mightily at the SF Gold Rush tourney, but now they add power forward Kevin Sagong back from school and a stint with the Dream League team. Also add swingman Conlan Kwong and all of a sudden you have two prime-time players. Center Scott Jaw was on track to becoming a quality center before ankle injuries hit. He's now healthy. Mitchell Fong is a guard who helped a Cinderella team win last year's Chinese Nationals team (in the absence of the Seattle Bladerunners, which retired). Adam Gidaszewski and Brandon Lewis are new adds I have not seen play yet, but who also have experience in the Chinese Nationals circuit.
Adam Gidaszewski -- Caucasian/Chinese
Brandon Lewis -- Caucasian/Chinese
LA Blaze: Here is a team I literally have no clue about. I've been told second-hand that they are probably a quality IndoPak circuit team, but I have not heard of them mentioned in the National IndoPak circuit, which has more prestige and I highly regard. Based on the roster, obviously a 100% IndoPak team.
Central Cali Cagers: Ditto everything I said about the LA Blaze here, too.
Andy Chohan #10
Bhupinder Gill #1
Kamal Gill #2
Gurchuran Sohal #32
Habib Kabir #15
Sam Sohal #12
Baltej Sidhu #55
Sj Chohan #8
Soni Dhillon #6
Gurtej Sidhu #21
Rickpual Vander #24
Long Beach Beatrock All-Stars: Center Jay Arizabal, who has played for PacRim, is the most notable name on this team, but Nick Tumarao is the scorer who can shoot a la Peja Stojakovic. The players with asterisks are the adds since last year when they lost in the semifinals at Vegas All-Star Weekend and in September when they lost in the championship to Bomb Squad SF in the Competitive division.
I'm sure we'll be adding more names in highlights who deserve proper recognition after this weekend is over...