The Adelaide 36ers are set to be a part of an Asian Champions League style tournament to be help in Singapore in the aims of developing the sport of basketball within the country.
The Basketball Association of Singapore (BAS) announced on Sunday evening that they are reviving it’s prestigious Merlion Cup International Basketball Tournament for the first time since in 1996.
The tournament is set from 21-25 September 2016 with the main attraction being the home team, Singapore Slingers (former NBL team) being able to play against world class competition on their own soil.
Adelaide accepted an invitation to participate and will go head to head with a number of Asian teams in preparation for the NBL season.
The tournament will feature a rematch of the ASEAN championship when recent runners-up Singapore take on the reigning champions, the Westport Malaysia Dragons who are also a part of the tournament.
Former NBL star Michael Johnson, who actually played in the Merlion Cup as part of the Newcastle Falcons in 1991, is helping to put the event together with aims of developing Singaporean basketball talent.
Johnson was able to confirm the other teams participating in the tournament will be the Yulon Dinos (Taiwan), an unconfirmed Korean team, an unconfirmed Phillipino team as well as the Shanghai Sharks (China) who are owned by NBA legend Yao Ming.
It is unknown if outfit Shanghai Sharks club president Yao Ming will be present, but it would certainly create a great deal of excitement in the Lion City if he did.
“If Yao Ming can come down, it will be huge. We have invited Yao Ming, but he hasn’t given his confirmation. His personal assistant said that he might have some engagements in the US during that period, but let’s see,” said Basketball Association of Singapore Honorary Secretary Ong Swee Teck.
Either way the Sharks will be exciting to watch as they will include Zhang Zhaoxu, a member of the Chinese National Team, Lee Hsueh-lin, dubbed the “Allen Iverson of Taiwan” by some and imports AJ Price and Bernard James, who were playing for the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks respectively in 2015.
“We’re hoping to steam the competition live online via Slingers TV partner Starhub” said Johnson which will make 36ers fans happy with the aforementioned 36ers Vs Sharks match up something every 36ers fan will need to tune in for.
The six team tournament will be played in a round-robin format playing from the recently opened, state-of-the-art OCBC Arena in Kallang. The venue holds 3,500 people and it’s expected to be filled to the brim with Singapore hoops fans.
Johnson, who is an assistant coach with the Singapore Slingers, noted that the Singapore National team is made up of all ten Singapore Slingers local players. The tournament is a chance for locals to see their top basketball talent square off against Australasia’s best.
Johnson is also excited about NBL fans being able to see how the Singapore Slingers have developed since last playing in the NBL in 2010.
“I laugh when i read the Slingers were a failure or that we folded, we moved out of the NBL due to huge travel costs and the NBL struggling at the time. We also struggled to get the locals interested in seeing all foreigner players and very few locals on court in Singapore”.
Playing in the ASEAN competiton the Slingers field a roster of 3 imports and 10 local players. The local players are all a part of the Singapore National Team who just experienced five years of unprecedented success for team having won medals at the last two South East Asia games (after a 34 year drought) and qualifying for the FIBA Asia Championship last year, where they had a chance to make the Olympics.
The Merlion Cup was discontinued in 1996 because of the economic downturn in Asia. It used to see the Singapore national team sparring against opponents from Yugoslavia, China, South Korea, Germany and Australia with the Singapore teams regulary playing in front of 8,000 fans.
“If response from the crowd and sponsors is good, we intend to hold the Merlion Cup every year,” Secretary Ong noted.