New Taipei Kings face Chiba Jets and Seoul SK Knights will play Jung Kwan Jang
Two of Asia’s biggest basketball stars are set to face off in the East Asia Super League semifinals, as Jeremy Lin’s team the New Taipei Kings plays Yuki Togashi’s team the Chiba Jets.
The other semifinal matchup will be a battle of two Korean Basketball League (KBL) heavyweights, with the Seoul SK Knights facing off against the Anyang Jung Kwan Jang Red Boosters.
The semifinals matchups for the EASL Final Four were set after yesterday’s final round of Group Stage games.
The Seoul SK Knights defeated the Philippine Basketball Association’s Meralco Bolts 72-62 at home to finish top of Group B, pushing P. LEAGUE+ side the New Taipei Kings into second place in the group.
The EASL Final Four is being played at the Hoops Dome in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, in the Philippines, on March 8-10. The semifinals will be played on Friday, March 8, and are as follows:
Seoul SK Knights (5-1) vs. Anyang Jung Kwan Jang Red Boosters (4-2) - tipping off 5 p.m. local time (Philippines)
Chiba Jets (6-0) vs. New Taipei Kings (4-2) - tipping off 8 p.m. local time (Philippines)
Ticket sales for the Final Four begin at 12 noon on February 15, at www.TicketMAX.ph.
The Chiba Jets vs. New Taipei Kings semifinal will feature two talismanic players in Asian basketball, NBA legend Jeremy Lin and Japan national team captain Yuki Togashi.
Lin joined New Taipei Kings last offseason, in the biggest offseason trade in the region. It was a statement signing. Lin had been outstanding the previous season in the P. LEAGUE+ for the Kaohsiung 17LIVE Steelers, averaging 26.9 points, 8.9 assists and 8.5 rebounds in 19 games.
The Kings are out to end the domestic dominance of their rivals Taipei Fubon Braves, who have won the P. LEAGUE+ three seasons in a row.
The EASL crown has also been in the Kings’ sights. Lin told media at the start of the season that Head Coach Ryan Marchand had given the team two goals: to win the P. LEAGUE+ and to win the EASL.
New Taipei Kings came out hot in the EASL, winning their first four games. Jeremy Lin played a pivotal role in these, although he was ably supported by a strong array of talent in the Kings’ roster. Other stars include Jeremy’s brother Joseph, and imports Kenny Manigault and Tony Mitchell Jr.
Jeremy Lin limped out of the defeat to Ryukyu with an injury and was rested in the game against Seoul. He is currently out of action with injury, with an expected return later this month.
New Taipei Kings’ semifinals opponents Chiba Jets have been the standout team in EASL this season, winning all their games to finish clear at the top of Group A.
Their captain, Yuki Togashi, is an icon of Japanese basketball. Togashi burnished his legend by leading the national team to a best-ever FIBA World Cup performance on home soil last year. He is also expected to lead the national team into the Paris Olympics tournament this summer.
Yuki Togashi has a strong supporting cast around him at the Chiba Jets. Other leading players include imports Xavier Cooks and John Mooney, Japanese-American forward Ira Brown, and local boys Ren Kanechika and Fumio Nishimura.
The other semifinal is an intriguing clash between KBL powerhouses the Seoul SK Knights and the Anyang Jung Kwan Jang Red Boosters.
Jung Kwan Jang were the dominant force in East Asian basketball last season, winning both the KBL and EASL Champions Week. In the finals of both, they defeated Seoul SK Knights.
The Anyang team has not carried that form into this domestic season, however. After a series of roster changes last offseason, Jung Kwan Jang have struggled to rediscover their rhythm. They currently sit ninth in the KBL standings, leaving the EASL as their main chance for silverware this season.
Filipino hoops fans will be hoping that their national team star Rhenz Abando will return from injury in time to represent Jung Kwan Jang at the Final Four.
New imports Robert Carter Jr. and Jamil Wilson will be important for Jung Kwan Jang. Carter has won back-to-back EASL Player of the Game honors in his two games since joining the team in January. Carter is averaging 24.5 points, eight rebounds and 4.5 assists across those two games.
Key local players in the Anyang roster include guards Choi Sung Won and Park Ji Hoon.
Seoul SK Knights have had a better season than their rivals, in both the KBL and the EASL. They are fourth in the KBL standings at present.
Seoul have the EASL’s leading scorer, Jameel Warney, who is averaging 31.8 points per game. Other key players include Leon Williams (13.2 ppg, 10.8 rpg), An Young Jun (19 ppg, 5 ppg), Kim Sun Hyung and Heo Il Young.
The stage is set for a thrilling EASL Final Four semifinals on March 8. These games will determine the matchups in the Third Place Game and Championship Game on March 10, being played at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively.
The wining team in this year’s EASL will receive a cash prize of US$ 1 million. The runner-up will receive US$ 500,000 and the third-place team US$ 250,000.
The cash is the cherry on top of the real prize: a place in Asian basketball history as the champions of the first East Asia Super League season.