Basketball players of Filipino heritage continue to leave their mark on plays in Taiwan's newest professional basketball league -- T1 LEAGUE -- with Taoyuan Leopard player Filipino-American forward Caelan Tiongson leading his team in points to record a double-double in his first game Saturday.
Tiongson posted a double-double of 16 rebounds and 19 points, including 2-5 from beyond the arc to help his team tie the score in the fourth quarter after being down by close to 20 points at halftime, in their first-ever game, despite eventually falling to the home team CTBC DEA 85-77 at New Taipei's Xinzhuang Gymnasium.
The 1.97-meter tall Tiongson broke his personal average 11.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists recorded in his professional debut in the 2017-18 season of the ASEAN Basketball League, when he played for the Chong Son Kung Fu, before transferring to the San Miguel Alab Pilipinas the following season.
"Stats is never anything that I'm concerned about, I have a great coach and I'm going to do whatever it takes to help our team win," Tiongson said. "Stats don't matter, the only thing that matters tonight is that we lost, so we have to be better, I have to be better."
Tiongson's performance Saturday follows from Kaohsiung Aquas' Filipino-American point guard Jason Brickman, who has been instrumental in his team's 2-0 start, making the Aquas a tough match for any of their opponents.
The 30-year-old Brickman fell three assists short of a triple-double in leading the Aquas to an 87-69 victory over the CTBC DEA on Dec. 5 at Xinzhuang Gymnasium, registering 12 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and two steals.
Back at the game Saturday, which was Game 4 of the T1 LEAGUE's inaugural season, Tiongson hit a shot from deep to even the score at 71-71 with just under six minutes left in the fourth quarter after the Leopard's had trailed for most of the game.
However, the DEA managed to widen the score in the final minutes of the game with the Leopards resorting to fouls to stop the clock. Unable to catch up with the clock ticking down, the Leopards suffered defeat in their first game.
Recognized across Southeast Asia and East Asia, Tiongson told CNA he has a lot of close friends who he considers family from Taiwan and views it as a new start.
"The Philippines I kind of left, who knows if I'll ever go back, but I kind of left on a bad note, so I want to try something new. Being out of basketball for two years, it's a new experience, new challenge, I love it so far," Tiongson said.
Tiongson announced his retirement from basketball at the age of 27 in October 2019 before making a return to professional basketball for the inaugural season of the T1 LEAGUE, which tipped off Nov. 27.
He really enjoys the environment in Taiwan and would like to be in the country for as long as possible, Tiongson said.
"I really want to be where I'm wanted, so if the Leopards want me, then great, that's stay in Taiwan for as long as possible," Tiongson said.
The Leopards next face the Taiwan Beer Herobears at University of Taipei's Tianmu campus gym Sunday in Game 7 of the league's regular season.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel