SUPER 8: Inside the Asia League's grand basketball plans for the region
Matt Beyer, CEO of the Asia League, has grand plans to help develop basketball in the East Asian region through tournaments like the Summer Super 8 and the Terrific 12. (ASIA LEAGUE Photo)
MACAU --- The Summer Super 8 is just the beginning.
The Asia League may only have eight teams, including two Pinoy teams, in its tournaments now with the Super 8, but the FIBA-recognized offseason competition platform for club basketball is targeting bigger and better things.
All for the continued development of basketball, particularly in this part of Asia.
Matt Beyer, CEO of the Asia League, noticed a couple of years back that there's pretty much no international club-to-club basketball competitions in Asia so he made some things happen.
While football has tournaments like the UEFA Champions League, basketball has no such thing.
There's the FIBA Champions Cup, but that includes all of Asia. What the Asia League tries to focus on is the East Asia and Southeast Asian territory, where top teams from China, Korea, Japan, and the Philippines can go after each other in high-level tournaments.
"I just think there's a huge lack in international club-to-club basketball competition in Asia," Beyer said.
"And if you look at China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Chinese Taipei, if you add the population of these geographies, it's over 2 billion people. So there's a lot of fans but no high level club-to-club competition. That's the reason this was created," he added.
For Beyer, Macau seems to be the perfect setting to stage such tournaments and for the Summer Super 8, he's looking at it as something that could become Asia's version of the NBA's Las Vegas Summer League.
Asia League has eight teams competing for the Super 8 this year with two teams each from China, Korea, and the Philippines plus one each from Japan and Taipei.
Next year, the Super 8 may no longer be as the plan is to have 16 teams see action.
"What we're aiming for is to become the East Asian version of the Las Vegas summer league," Beyer said.
"Our July events, we will expand the scale of the teams. The eight teams this year, I wanna have 16 next year and that means more PBA teams if that's logistically possible," he added.
Speaking of the PBA, the Asia League is aggressive is trying to work with getting Filipino teams to its events.
Pinoy teams attract crowds and they generally perform well with these kind of tournaments. For the ongoing Super 8, both NLEX and Blackwater ended up with identical 2-1 records. The Road Warriors are in the semifinals and the Elite missed the playoffs by one basket and ended up with an inferior quotient.
And despite group play being played on weekdays, a decent Filipino crowd have showed up to watch the action at the East Asian Games Dome.
"We started the dialogue with the PBA and Commissioner Willie (Marcial)," Beyer said.
"We're trying to coordinate being able to make things work with the schedule and have teams released for the tournaments or just fit into the windows where they're available. I think we can work it out long term and I think this is good for the PBA and to the teams to play against different types of teams for a technical perspective and it should help to get the news out about PBA teams in other markets," he added.
Aside from the Super 8 this year, the Asia League also has the Terrific 12 coming up in September.
More than the number of teams involved, that tournament should be fiercer with club teams being allowed to have imports. Beyer ideally wants to have the PBA participate in that as well but with the Governors' Cup ongoing at that time, it might be difficult at least for this year.
Still, the Asia League wants Pinoy teams, but not just any Pinoy teams.
That's why Alab Pilipinas has been in consideration to compete in September though it's yet to be seen if Jimmy Alapag's crew can join.
Ultimately, Beyer's goal is to have the Asia League be a hub for teams across Asia to compete with one another in such a way that their own mother leagues aren't being disrupted.
The Asia League wants its July event to be the premier offseason joust.
"The ideal situation that I look at is the July event be the summer league and expand it to 32 teams in three years. And that becomes the premier offseason forum just like the Las Vegas summer league is in the West," Beyer said.
"September, we can't expand it above 12, that might be a little too big but let's see how it goes. That's gonna be the biggest preseason party for teams. We're gonna have the best rosters, tons of media, and broadcast on over 30 platforms all over the world," he added.
That seems grand enough for the Asia League but there's more.
Soon enough, full integration is going to be Beyer's target.
"What we want starting the 2019-2020 season is to have integration into the seasons. What I look at is a pilot project where we take teams that are on the region and put them into two small groups that play home and way through the season, maybe one game per month to start," Beyer said.
"And then we do a Final Four event, probably here in Macau to start. And then maybe that Final Four event can be like Euroleague Final Four before it moves around the region at an annual basis. That would be what I like to see. That would require a deep partnership with FIBA and the associations like the PBA," he added.
Ultimately, the Asia League would like to stay true its mission to raise the standard of basketball in the region through greater collaboration with different leagues.
It helps that for the current Super 8, teams are in it to win it and are taking things seriously. There should be more to come.
"This isn't a one off tournament. We want to have a series of events. FIBA's mandate is a little different than ours but I think the goal is the same, we want to develop basketball and make the level of competition better in the region," Beyer said.
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