By Brian Yalung
The Zamboanga Valientes have set a modest goal as they prepare to see action in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) Invitational 2023 tournament in Singapore set to kick off on Tuesday, Jan. 3.
In an exclusive interview with PTV Sports, Zamboanga Valientes Vice President Joseph Romarante narrated how they did not pass on the opportunity to join the ABL where they can showcase the talents of Filipino players from the province.
“When the opportunity came, may nakita kaming window na pwedeng makapasok yung Valientes. So we got that opportunity kasi gusto namin showcase, firstly yung talent ng mga taga-Zamboanga at iba’t-ibang players natin,” Romarante said.
Coaching the Valientes in the ABL will be Bobedick delos Santos, a native of Zamboanga and someone who has worked with several notable names in the Philippine basketball scene such as Forthsky Padrigao, Peter Alfaro and Rhayyyan Amsali among others.
Also, the Valientes will not be short on reinforcement. Backing up the local players on the Valientes side are former Terrafirma Dyip import Antonio Hester, someone Romarante branded as an automatic double-double machine. There is also 7-foot Ryan Smith, someone they discovered in the Malaysian pro league.
Other reinforcements include Will Deng, the cousin of former NBA player Luol Deng. Though little is known about him, Romarante bats that the 6-foot-5 player is a Big 10 player in Australia.
Rounding out the reinforcements for the Valientes is heritage import, Jeremy Arthur.
As for the locals, also on the roster of the Valientes are James Kwekuteye, Kemark Carino, JR Cawaling, Rudy Lingganay and controversial cager John Amores.
Amores, as most know, made headlines recently for his involvement in several on-court skirmishes. But according to Romarante, the former Jose Rizal University standout has been doing well and has proven to be a good fit to the system of the Valientes.
“Ok siya. Mabait siya at fit talaga siya sa sistema,” the Valientes team executive quipped.
“Hindi niya sinasayang ang opportunity na binigay sa kanya. He is doing everything possible to prove that he still belongs to the basketball community,” Romarante added.
Lastly, Romarante explains that while it is the goal of any team to reach the finals, the Valientes’ first aim is to make it to the top four.
“Realistic naman kami, of course everyone wants to be in the finals. Pero yung pinaka (sic) namin ay makapasok muna sa top four. And then from there, we will do our best sa semis and the finals,” Romarante explained.
“So far naman as far as sa scouting namin sa ibang teams, top four is doable. But of course, we want to go all the way to the finals,” he ended.
As part of their preparations, the Valientes had a tuneup game with the Converge FiberXers on Friday, Dec. 30, at the Gatorade Hoops Center in Mandaluyong City. Coverge won, 98-92.
The Zamboanga Valientes will play their first game on Tuesday, Jan. 3, against Louvre Surabya. They return to action on Friday, Jan. 6, against the Saigon Heat.