Hong Kong’s Eastern Long Lions aim for top-tier Fiba Asia Champions Cup

After winning the Asean League series, Hong Kong basketball team eyes higher honours

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 April, 2017, 8:20pm
UPDATED : Monday, 24 April, 2017, 9:11pm

Hong Kong’s Eastern Long Lions have set their sights on the top-tier Fiba Asia Champions Cup after winning the Asean League in their debut season.

Eastern saw off the Singapore Slingers with a thrilling double-overtime 82-80 victory at the Sports Hub in the island state to clinch the series 3-1 on Sunday.

Americans Josh Boone, Marcus Elliott and Tyler Lamb combined to score 24 of Eastern’s final 26 points to drive them over the finish line.

Assistant team manager Choi Fong-yue said on their return from Singapore on Monday that with the regional cup competition being held in China, Eastern would be happy to test their ability at this level – but first, they have to be the Hong Kong champions.

“The Asean champion can be granted a berth in the Cup representing Southeast Asia but since Hong Kong is in East Asia, we have to gain access through our own ­region,” said Choi.

Choi played for former Hong Kong champion Regal when they lifted the regional cup trophy in 1999 – so far the only Hong Kong club that has been successful at that level.

“There are two Champions Cup berths for East Asia clubs and China gets one as the hosts,” Choi said. “We therefore have to compete against clubs from Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Taiwan and even Macau if they are also interested. But before that, we must win the Hong Kong A1 Division championship, which is no easy task.”

Eastern have already stumbled in the Senior Shield – the ­domestic cup competition – after losing out to Winling, who were then beaten by South China in the final. The league will kick off this week.

“We can use four overseas players in the Asean League but there is no such thing in domestic competitions,” said Choi. “We are trying to lure the four players to see if any of them will stay with us so that they can play in domestic competitions next year, but nothing is confirmed yet.”

“The Hong Kong Basketball ­Association allows only one “resident” player from overseas for each club and that player must stay in Hong Kong for one year ­before they can start in domestic competitions.

Eastern have four expat ­players – Elliott, Boone, Lamb and Steven Guinchard. Captain Li Ki urged the association to change the rules to allow more foreign players.

Hong Kong’s Eastern Long Lions crowned Asean basketball champions after stunning debut season

“We have learned a lot from the overseas players over the last couple of months and it would be great if we can have them playing with us, not only in the Asean League but also in domestic competitions,” he said.

“It can help raise the standard at club level and in the long run the Hong Kong representative team.”