Renaldo Balkman is back to reinforce San Miguel-Alab Pilipinas in its title defense in the upcoming season of the Asean Basketball League (ABL).
The 34-year old Puerto Rican arrived in the country Sunday night and vowed to hit the ground running with more than a month before the 2018-19 season fires off on 16 November.
Earlier this year, the 6-foot-8 Balkman teamed-up with Justin Brownlee in engineering Alab’s first-ever championship following a thrilling five-game titular series victory over rival Mono Vampire of Thailand.
Behind his all-around average of 23.0 points, 10.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.9 blocks, the 6-foot-8 Balkman also won the Co-Defensive Player of the Year together with Chris Charles of Singapore Slingers.
Balkman and Brownlee were originally set to play together anew but the latter is currently helping Ginebra defend its crown in the ongoing Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Governors’ Cup.
After their championship run in the ABL, Balkman and Brownlee competed against each other in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup with Brownlee powering the Kings to the title.
With Brownlee unavailable, Balkman will still have a familiar partner in fellow Puerto Rican PJ Ramos.
Ramos, a 7-foot-5 giant, reinforced the KIA Carnival (now Columbian Dyip) in 2015 Commissioner’s Cup.
Last July, Alab also hired a new addition in Filipino-American Caelan Tingoson, who played for the Chongson Kung Fu last season.
The complete local roster of Alab Pilipinas is yet to be announced as the core of its championship squad last year, led by two-time ABL Most Valuable Player Ray Parks Jr., is currently playing in other leagues.
Being the defending champion, Alab will still have three more weeks of layoff before opening their title retention campaign with a home game against CLS Knights Indonesia on 9 December.
Already on its ninth season, ABL added two new teams in Macau Black Bears and Zhuhai Wolf Warriors, who will join Mono Vampire, CLS, Saigon Heat, Singapore Slingers, Formosa Dreams, Westport Malaysia and Hong Kong Eastern in a bid to dethrone Alab Pilipinas.