“We arrived on Monday and our preparation has been good with those warm-up games before departure,” he said. “I am excited to compete with the Korean and Japanese teams.”
Brian Goorjian, the Dragons’ head coach, said the team had learned from its gruelling first season in the Philippines.
“It went down to one game for the PBA championship and in the locker room, we were in tears,” the 69-year-old said. “I had never coached before over 50,000 fans and I have been to three Olympics.
“It was a remarkable experience and Bay Area as a brand became known all over the world. We appreciate the Philippines Basketball Association, teams and fans for welcoming us.
“It will be tough [in the champions week]. We play two games in the group stage and the top finishers of each group play for the championship, so one loss in the preliminaries could knock you out.”
With a new challenge on the horizon, the Dragons have added Filipino-American combo guard Sedrick Barefield to their roster, to compliment the skills of imports Andrew Nicholson and Myles Powell.
The 26-year-old averaged 12 points, 2.5 assists and 2.1 rebounds in his final year with Utah playing NCAA Division I basketball in 2019, before playing professionally in Lithuania, Greece, the NBA G-League with Oklahoma City Blue, and Taiwan.
“I am a multi-dimensional player, I make plays for myself and my teammates,” the Californian said. “It’s been great playing with a team that knows how to play together.
“The Dragons have had a lot of success throughout the year, they are a well-oiled machine and I just come in and do my best and try to help, add value to the team.”
Despite the new addition, star point guard Glen Yang is expected to keep his starting spot.
“I feel ready and focused for these games. This is the final push before the season ends and I am ready to go,” Yang said.
“I expect to start still but whatever role I have to help the team win I will do it. There are just three games so every minute matters.
“We are going into this with focus and readiness for anything. These are huge games for me and the team so just very excited to showcase what we have to offer and how hard we have worked over the last four weeks.”
This week’s tournament boasts a total prize fund of US$400,000, with the winners walking away with US$250,000.
The eight participating teams are divided into two groups of four, with each team playing two group games.
Teams finishing second in their group will play-off for third place on March 5 in Okinawa, with the group winners playing for the championship trophy on the same day at the Okinawa Arena, which is also a 2023 Fiba World Cup venue.
Group A: Anyang KGC (Korea), Taipei Fubon Braves (Taiwan), Ryukuy Golden Kings (Japan), San Miguel Beerman (Philippines)
Group B: Seoul SK Knights (Korea), Utsunomiya Brex (Japan), Bay Area Dragons (Hong Kong), TNT Tropang Giga (Philippines)
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