By Marcus ChhanFollow @@MarcusChhan
This is the first attempt by the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) at a signature event mid-season and it takes place from the 15th to the 17th of March 2013 in Ho Chi Minh City.
Hosted by the Saigon Heat, Hoops Fest will feature all six ABL teams competing for regular season games while players can also pick up individual honours over the weekend at the dunk contest and three-point shootout.
With less than 24 hours to go before it all gets underway, Heat coach Jason Rabedeaux says there is "incredible excitement" in Ho Chi Minh City for the festival.
"I think for an event of this calibre, and to have all the teams of the ABL represented in Ho Chi Minh City, it is going to be a great weekend for our fans," Rabedeaux told FOX Sports.
"But I also think it is going to be a great weekend for the teams participating in Hoops Fest and obviously I think it will be a great weekend for the ABL overall to bring everybody together under one roof."
ABL chief executive officer Anthony Macri told FOX earlier in the month that the success of Hoops Fest this weekend could determine whether the league decide to make it an annual event - or pull the plug and go back to the drawing board.
There have been grumblings behind the scenes about Hoops Fest from some of the visiting teams - mostly concerning the extra strain on their budget the event was having because of travel costs and accommodation.
The format of having two rounds of regular season games has also not pleased everyone but overall Hoops Fest is being seen as a step in the right direction for the four-year old league.
"I think my opinion is let's see how it goes the first time around," Rabedeaux said.
"Then I think after we are finished with it we can make any adjustments or tweaks to whatever we see necessary moving forward. That's kinda my read on it."
Day 1 Preview, 15th March 2013
Chang Thailand Slammers vs Indonesia Warriors
Tan Binh Stadium (2pm local time)
The Chang Thailand Slammers and the Indonesia Warriors will meet for the third time in one month as they open up the ABL Hoops Fest Saigon 2013 at Tan Binh Stadium, Vietnam. The Warriors have defeated the Slammers twice so far this season. In their most recent game, the Warriors defeated the Slammers 69-60 at the Tennis Indoor Senayan in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The Warriors are currently the number one team in the league with a record of 7 wins and 3 losses. They struggled offensively in their last game however as their 7 game winning streak was snapped after a 57-52 loss to the Beermen. The Warriors was only shooting at a little below 30% in that game. Despite the loss, Chris Daniels was on top of his game as he recorded 16 points and 16 rebounds while Steven Thomas added 11 points and 14 rebounds.
The Slammers have been riding on the brilliance of Chris Charles and Froilan Baguion all season. Both Charles and Baguion had a great game in their last outing against the Warriors. Charles finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds while Baguion had 15 points, 10 assists and 6 rebounds before fouling out of the game midway through the fourth quarter.
Darrius Brannon will play his second game with the Slammers. Brannon had a decent debut with the Slammers when he finished with 12 points and 9 rebounds in their last game. Former Ateneo de Manila University shooting guard Luis Gonzaga will make his debut for the Slammers after his recent appointment by the Slammers to replace Jonathan Fernandez.
Jobstreet.com Singapore Slingers vs San Miguel Beermen
Tan Binh Stadium (4.30pm local time)
The Jobstreet.com Singapore Slingers will try to find a way to end their offensive struggle when they battle the San Miguel Beermen at Tan Binh Stadium, Vietnam.
Despite their offensive struggles, the Slingers are still holding on to the fourth spot in the standings table with a record of 4 wins and 5 losses. They will come in off a 75-56 loss to the Westports Malaysia Dragons at MABA Stadium last Sunday. Slingers' head coach Neo Beng Siang was not happy with his team after they recorded 28 turnovers in that game. "Turnovers killed us today. We need to clean this up as whole," said Slingers' head coach Neo Beng Siang after the game.
Rashad Jones-Jennings led the Slingers with 17 points and 16 rebounds but he also committed 10 turnovers. Slingers' guard Don Dulay scored a season-high 12 points from 6 of 8 shooting. Dulay would love to carry over this shooting performance against the Beermen. New comer Rashaad Singleton would also be expected to contribute more against the Beermen. Singleton had a decent debut with the Slingers as he scored 11 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked 4 shots.
The Beermen is currently on a three-game winning streak after defeating the Warriors 57-52 on the road. With their leading scorer Gabe Freeman sitting out their last game, Chris Banchero was on attack mode as he led his team with 19 points. "With Gabe sitting out, I knew I had to attack and stay aggressive. I knew I had to score some points and pick up for the team," said Banchero, who has averaged 20.4 points over his last five games.
The Beermen have brought in Justin Williams to replace the injured Freeman. Williams is a 6'9'' power forward who had experience with the Sacramento Kings and the Houston Rockets in the National Basketball Association. Williams is set to make his debut for the Beermen in the Hoops Fest.
Saigon Heat vs Westports Malaysia Dragons
Tan Binh Stadium (7pm local time)
A revamped Saigon Heat team will take on the Westports Malaysia Dragons for this week's ABL Friday Basketball game on FOX SPORTS Asia, which is also the third game from Day 1 of the ABL Hoops Fest Saigon 2013. This will be their second meeting of the season. The Dragons beat the Heat 80-70 in their season opener at Tan Binh Stadium, Vietnam.
The Heat revamped their team by replacing their shooting guard Phillip Morrison and defensive stopper Karl Dehesa with veteran point guard Al Vergara and Chris Sumalinog. Vergara is no stranger to the ABL as he has played with the Jobstreet.com Singapore Slingers and AirAsia Philippine Patriots in previous seasons while Sumalinog had a great career with Ateneo de Manila University although it will be his first time playing in the ABL.
"It's always difficult to make changes. In our case we wanted to go with a little size and we wanted to go with a little more experience," Heat coach Rabedeaux said.
"We don't have a lot of depth and we don't have alot of size so we tried to a go a little bit bigger and we tried to go with more experience in our replacement of Karl and Phil.
"It is certainly no statement against them as players."
The Heat has been hit with the injury bug lately but we can expect a healthy Heat team for the ABL Hoops Fest Saigon 2013. During their last game, the Heat lost 76-58 to the Chang Thailand Slammers at home. The Heat was playing without their starting center David Palmer who was forced to sit out due to an injury. Dior Lowhorn has also been unstoppable in his last five games, averaging 29.4 points per game.
The Dragons has also made a significant change as they part ways with Sammy Monroe who played with Dragons for four games and averaged 26.3 points per game. Marcus Hubbard was brought in to take Monroe's spot. Hubbard last played in Venezuela but prior to the National Basketball Association season, he was part of the Los Angeles Clippers preseason roster. "Hubbard will bring us toughness and experience," said Dragons' head coach Ariel Vanguardia.
Patrick Cabahug will likely not be playing in the Hoops Fest as he suffered a sprained ankle in the 75-56 win over Jobstreet.com Singapore Slingers last Sunday.