Asi, Menk lead Beermen in ABL
MANILA, Philippines - A pair of grizzled PBA veterans will try to deliver a championship for San Miguel Beer in the Asean Basketball League (ABL) this season as newly appointed head coach Leo Austria takes charge with a souped-up roster featuring imports Gabe Freeman and Brian Williams.
Asi Taulava, 39, and Eric Menk, 38, head the local cast for the Beermen who lost to the Indonesia Warriors in the ABL finals last campaign. “They’re in excellent shape, like they’re out to prove something,” said San Miguel director of sports Noli Eala. “Our goal is to win the title and they’ll play a major role.”
The Beermen begin their quest for their first-ever ABL crown against the Warriors in Jakarta on Jan. 11. They took a Christmas break from practice last Friday and return to the gym on Wednesday. San Miguel will take a two-day New Year break then report back for practice on Jan. 2 with Freeman and Williams who will have arrived from the US by then, disclosed team manager Rico Meneses.
Aside from Taulava and Menk, San Miguel will parade Leo Avenido, R. J. Rizada, Christian Luanzon, Chris Banchero, Axel Doruelo, Paolo Hubalde, J. R. Cawaling, Val Acuña, Mike Burtscher and Hans Thiele. The reinforcements are first-class as Freeman is a two-time PBA Best Import awardee and Williams, a 6-10 center, averaged 20.8 points and 14.4 rebounds with the Westports Malaysia Dragons in the ABL last season. To toughen the Beermen, mixed martial arts fighter Nico D’Haenen was recruited as strength and conditioning coach. D’Haenen, a Belgian, has long years of experience as a performance enhancing specialist with athletes under the Philippine Sports Commission and is the conditioning coach of the Homeless World Cup soccer team. He is known for introducing kettlebell training and functional movement screening in the country.
Austria took over the coaching chores from Bobby Parks who is on medical leave. His assistants are Oliver Bunyi, Mac Cuan and Alvin Teng. Serbian Rajko Toroman is team consultant.