Fri, 12 May 2000

Mahaka SM vows to fight in ABC Cup

JAKARTA (JP): Champion of the 1999 national basketball league Mahaka Satria Muda (SM) left for Lebanon on Thursday to fight in the Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) Champions Cup, with a strong hope that it will not end up in the bottom position.

The ambition is more than a distant hope given the club's result in the Southeast Asia zone qualifying round in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, last month. SM managed to take second place behind the Philippine strongmen. Both countries qualified for the Cup, which is attended by the 10 top Asian basketball clubs.

Malaysian Petronas club qualified earlier for the Cup due to its third ranking in last year's championships. Host team Sagesse club won the Cup and Liaoning club of China was second last year.

SM manager, Erick Thohir said on Thursday that the tough rivals are not only coming from neighboring Malaysia and the Philippines, but also from China, host team Sagesse and Gulf region qualifier Al-Rayan.

He said that China was likely to field its 22-year-old Wang Zhi-zhi of Ba-yi Rockets club, a former member of the Chinese Olympic team in 1996 who was selected by the Dallas Mavericks in second round of the 1999 NBA professional draft.

Erick said Lebanon might field its veteran 35-year-old player Rony Seikaly, the former Miami Heat all-time leading rebounder with 4,544 and all time block leader with 610 from 1988/1989 through 1993/1994 seasons. Beirut-born Seikaly now is playing with the New Jersey Nets.

He also said that Qatar had Yaseen Mahmood, a young hopeful who is currently on a tryout with NBA's Indiana Pacers.

"We set a realistic target: we want to avoid the bottom position. On paper, it's difficult for us to win. But firstly we won't let Malaysia defeat us. We have a great chance against Bahrain and Qatar, although Qatar might field Mahmood," he said.

Erick said that his club would field one short player and four tall players to equalize with the players from other countries who were taller than the average Indonesian. The team includes 10 core SM players plus Rommy Chandra (Indonesia Muda Texmaco) and I Made Sudiadnyana (Bhinneka Sritex).

Indonesia is in Group A with host Lebanon, China, Japan and Uzbekistan and another West Asian qualifier. Group B comprises Malaysia's Petronas, Al-Ittihad Jedda of Saudi Arabia, Qatar's Al Rayan, Bahrain's Manama. Metrostars of the Philippines is expected to join this group.

The ABC Champions Cup has earned increasing fame and status in the past few years as the winner was given the right to compete against the reigning NBA and European League champions in the biennial McDonald's Championships.

Web site reports that Sagesse was allowed to take part in the 1999 McDonald's Championship won by Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs in Milan, Italy. (ivy)