Monday, October 30, 2006

Sanders, Thomas to give SBL a new look

Jonathan Sanders and Delvin Thomas, the only two import players who will play in the SBL next season, were featured in local Ming-shen Daily Sunday. The arrival of Sanders, who will play for Videoland Hunters, and Thomas, who joined ETSN Antelopes, is expected to give the SBL a new look in the new season.

If you wonder why a couple of imports attracted so much attention. Think about this. Sanders and Thomas are the first group of import players in Taiwan in seven years! There have been no import players in Taiwan since 1999, when the defunct professional league CBA (Chinese Basketball Alliance) folded.

Both of them have been practicing with their teams for a while and will be paid US$ 6,000 monthly. It's not good, but Taiwan is a good and convenient place to live and has a good reputation of paying foreign players. I guess that balanced the salary somehow.

Sanders attracted Hunters' attention when he played with Niigata Albirex in the APB tournament in August. Niigata did not play well in the tournament but Sanders had a couple of big games in the tourney. Hunters targeted 6-7 Sanders, a St. Mary's (CA) graduate, for his ability to play inside and out, his explosiveness to the hoop and positive attitude on the court.

(Excuse me for a mistake in the prevous report. Sanders played for Niigata Albirex in the APB, not LG Sakers.)

It didn't take long for Sanders to be popular, Ming-shen Daily reported. Fans asked for autographs and brought Sanders gifts after his third practice with the team.

"I want to bring the Hunters back to a top four finish and preferably a championship, " said Sanders, who idolizes Magic Johnson growing up.

Hunters coaching staff is not disappointed either. Lin Jia-huang and Hsiung Jen-jen, Hunters' assistants, described Sanders a player with unselfishness, good court vision and passing ability, something not usually seen in imports.

"But he is capable of taking over the game if he has to, " the coaching staff said.

With a 6-9 wingspan and a muscular body, Delvin Thomas will be asked to dominate the paint offensively and defensively for the Antelopes, which has been weak in the middle.

Thomas surprised his new boss and teammates in the first practice, smashing the backboard with one of his powerful dunks. ETSN, which has to rent for practice facility due to lack of a home court, had to compensate for the backboard. But the team was more than happy.

"That obviously showed his determination and attitude, " an ETSN coach said.

Thomas, who graduated from Bethune-Cookman, also set a goal of bringing the Antelopes back to top four. He credited former NBA great Tim Hardaway, who played with Thomas in the ABA last year, for teaching him many things on the court.

ETSN head coach Chiu Da-tsun believed Thomas will be a valuable addition for the team because of his experiences in Germany, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Finland and minor leagues such as the ABA and WBA.

The 2006-07 SBL season will not begin until after the Doha Asian Games, which means the opening night of the regular season may fall on 2007. Sanders and Thomas will have a lot of time getting to adjust to a new environment and their teammates.