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The only ‘Shinto Bully’ disbanded, 3 Japanese players…PBA team league goes global

Turkiye, Vietnam, Japan, Spain, USA, Belgium, Cambodia… It’s a global village in terms of nationalities. In addition, the only team in the PBA Team League, the Shinto Bulldogs, has been disbanded and the proportion of foreign players has increased.

On the 23rd, the PBA Team League Draft for the 2023-24 season was held at the Press Center in Jung-gu, Seoul.

The PBA Team League for the 23-24 season, which is set to begin in early August, will consist of nine teams. Welcome Savings Bank, Blue One Resort, Huon’s, Haiwon Resort, Crown HaeTae, Hana Card, NH Card, Eswai Group, and SK Rent-a-Car will compete this season.

Among them, Eswai Group is a fully formed new team, with Kudrong (Welcome Savings Bank, Belgium), Daniel Sanchez (Spain), another of the “Four Kings,” and No. 1 amateur Han Ji-eun as priority picks.

On the other hand, Hi One Resort will take over the existing team, TS Shampoo Puradak, which was disbanded and renamed. As a result, the former TS Shampoo Puradak faded into history, and Hi-One Resort, with Im Rae, Lim Sung-gyun, and Yong Hyun-ji, became a multinational team by selecting Lee Chung-bok in the PBA Team League Draft, as well as Nguyen Duc Anh Chien and Nguyen Phuong Linh (formerly of the NHL Card).

In its inaugural 2019-20 season, the now-defunct TS Shampoo Puradang had foreign players Filippos Katsidokostas (Greece, currently out of the PBA) and Robinson Morales (Columbia), but since the 20-21 season, the team has been made up entirely of domestic players, as opposed to each team having a European player as its ace. In the 21-22 season, the team was also made up entirely of domestic players under captain Kim Jong-won.

This season, however, there is no longer a “newcomer” to the team league as TS Shampoo Puradak has disbanded and brought in two Vietnamese players.

Nguyen Duc Anh Chien, the newest addition to Haiwon Resort, has previously finished fourth at the 2015 Vietnam 3-Cushion Championship, fourth at the 2019 World Cup 3-Cushion in Wegel, and runner-up at the 2019 World 3-Cushion Championship. His 2019 World Championship runner-up finish catapulted him to stardom. He gained fame after facing the ‘Four Kings’ Tovjon Bromdahl in the final.

Nguyen Phuong Linh, who previously played in the team league on the NHL Card, reached the top 16 on the individual tour twice (Blue One Resort Championship and NHL Card Championship) in the 22-23 season. She is ranked 47th overall in the points rankings. In the same season, she played 12 singles matches and 22 doubles matches in the NHL Card regular season. In singles, he posted a 6-6 record with a 50% winning percentage and an AVG of 1.378, while in doubles, he went 9-13 with a 40.9% winning percentage and a 50.9% scoring success rate.

Higashiuchi, PBA

Hanakad Sakai Ayako, PBA

SK Rent-a-Car’s Hida OriieⓒMHN Sports Reporter Lee Ji-sook

In addition, there have only been two female players with foreign nationalities in the team league so far. SK Rent-a-Car’s mainstay Hida Oriie안전놀이터 (Japan) and Blue One Resort’s must-see player, Sreng Piavi (Cambodia), stood out.

However, this season, Japan’s Ayako Sakai (Hana Card, 15th overall) and reigning High One Resort champion Natsumi Higashiuchi (Welcome Savings Bank, 6th overall) have been added to the roster, and the Korean-Japanese match will be followed by a one-day event.

Ayako Sakai, who has been playing since the inaugural season of the PBA, began to make her mark in the 21-22 season. She reached the round of 16 four times and the quarterfinals twice before the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in the 22-23 season.

Similarly, original member Higashiuchi won one title, reached the quarterfinals once, the semifinals once, and the round of 32 twice in the 22-23 season. Higashiuchi, who learned to play billiards through online games, became an LPBA champion and went on to play in the PBA Team League.

As the nationalities of players on the PBA Tour have become more diverse, the PBA Team League has also seen an increasing number of foreign players.

Frederick Kudrong of Welcome Savings BankⓒMHN Sports Reporter Park Tae-seong

In terms of each team, Welcome Savings Bank currently has three foreign players in Kudrong (Belgium), Wimaz (Turkiye), and Higashiuchi (Japan).

In addition, Blue One Resort has three players in Surong (Cambodia), Chan Chapak (Turkiye), and Zapata (Spain), SK Rent-a-Car has two in Repens (Belgium) and Ngo Dinh Nai (Vietnam), Huon’s has two in Palazon (Spain) and Saginer (Turkiye), Hi One Resort has two in Vietnam, and Crown Hae Ta has one in Martinez (Spain).

Hana Card has three players in Nguyen Quoc Nguyen (VN), Sakai (JPN) and Murat Nasi Choklu (TUR), while NHC Card has two, adding “rookie king” Antonio Montes (Spain) to its existing Maminkam (VN) roster. Eswai Group also has two foreigners in Sanchez (Spain) and Zheng Ain Vu (Vietnam).

Of these, Spain and Vietnam have the most players with five each. They were followed by Turkiye with four and Japan with three. Belgium had two and Cambodia had one.

If the PBA expands overseas in the future, the number of foreign players is expected to increase. The PBA has announced that this season will be the first year of overseas expansion. Unless there is a special rule against it, the dreaded “foreigner clubs” with mostly foreign players, except for one or two Korean players as leaders, could become a reality. Or, as in the case of Kudrong, a seasoned foreigner could take over as leader.

Meanwhile, the PBA, which kicked off the 23-24 season with the team league draft, will hold a media day on June 7 to kick off the season. The opening event of the 23-24 season, the Blue One Resort Championship, will be held on June 11. The Team League will begin in early August.

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