Thursday,  Nov 15, 2018,02:23 (GMT+7) 0 0
Heat overhauls roster as ABL season looms
By Harry Hodge
Tuesday,  Nov 6, 2018,12:54 (GMT+7)

Heat overhauls roster as ABL season looms

By Harry Hodge

The Saigon Heat holds a press conference in HCMC on Monday to announce their roster for the new ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) season - PHOTO: COURTESY OF SAIGON HEAT

HCMC - “Out with the old, in with the new.”

This phrase couldn’t be more appropriate for Saigon Heat fans. With the Vietnamese squad entering its seventh ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) season, Canadian bench boss Kyle Julius has completely turned over his roster from last year’s 10-10 squad. Gone are fan favorites like Vietnamese-American David Arnold, the face of the franchise since its third season, as well as Vietnamese-Swedish star Stefan Nguyen, who’s plyed his trade in the Vietnam Basketball Association (VBA) in Hanoi and Danang the last two seasons.

With the league revamping its rules on import players and what constitutes a “heritage” player, with ties to the country they play in through family lineage, a sizable portion of this year’s squad is made up of Vietnamese-American players, like VBA stalwarts Tran Dang Khoa, Justin Young, Sang Dinh and more.

“This is what you have to do to grow the game,” said Julius, saying teams in other ABL markets in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and elsewhere will build around domestic players instead of leaning on imports from other countries to carry the load. “It’s what I always envisioned in the first place.”

Julius is entering his second season, after leading the team to a franchise-high 10 wins in the regular season last year, but will enter this year’s campaign with a squad without any ABL experience whatsoever. Julius said this can be a mixed blessing.

“Sometimes the best way to change a culture is to change the people,” he added, well aware the Heat have yet to win a playoff game in the franchise’s history, despite four straight postseason appearances. “As a coach, you want a team that reflects your personality.

“I think these guys are gonna hustle.”

One of those new arrivals is Murphy Burnatowski, who has balled out with NBA stars as a member of Canada’s national team and also played professionally in Europe. He seemed unfazed by the prospect of playing in a different league on a different continent.

“Professional basketball players tend to figure things out pretty quick,” he mused. “The ones who figure it out tend to stick around longer.”

With a bold goal of rising to the top three in this year’s ABL, which now features teams outside of the ASEAN region in markets like Macau, Hong Kong, and further afield, fans will soon learn if all the tinkering with the lineup will see the Heat torches the opposition, or simply fizzles out.

The Heat play their home opener on Sunday, November 18 at CIS Stadium in District 7 against the Indonesia’s CLS Knights. For more information, visit the Heat’s Facebook page.

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