ASEAN heritage import Josh Urbiztondo looks to lift the Singapore Slingers over the hump
In their eight-year stay in the ABL, the Singapore Slingers, one of the founding members of the regional league, have yet to taste gold. They have reached the Finals once, falling to the Westports Malaysia Dragons in a series that reached the limit, 2-3.
18 games into the current season, the Slingers are the second-running team, having compiled a 12-6 slate — a full three games ahead of Alab Pilipinas. And in order to beef up their roster, the team has tapped eight-year PBA veteran Josh Urbiztondo.
“Coach Neo [Beng Siang] called me and MJ [Assistant coach Michael Johnson]. We got a hold of each other and we were able to work it out for me to come and step away from the PBA for a while,” Urbiztondo shared.
Prior to signing with the Slingers, the 34-year-old gunslinger had played six games with the Globalport Batang Pier — his last game was on January 29. With a month-long layoff, Urbiztondo admitted that he is still in the process of regaining his conditioning.
“It’s been tough because, not only the adjustments, but we were actually off for five weeks from the PBA. Everything was so sudden and I was rushing to get into shape, rushing to get my legs back under me,” the 6-foot-1 guard admitted.
After a disappointing 4-point, 2-rebound outing in his debut against the Saigon Heat, Urbiztondo was able to bounce back with eight points on 2-of-6 shooting from downtown, to go along with five rebounds and three assists.
“Last game, obviously, [the lack of conditioning] showed but good thing we had a whole week before games. We had six days for preparation and I think, the conditioning and the adjustments, it really helped me in the past week,” he added.
“Hopefully, within the next couple of games, I’ll be a 100 percent.”
Outside of his conditioning, the native of San Francisco, California is still adjusting to the rigors of the travel brought about by the ABL circuit.
“The ball. We played with a Molten (laughs). This is the Li-ning, it’s a different material. A lot different,” he quipped about the difference of playing in the ABL and the PBA.
“And then there’s the travel. In the PBA, every thing is in Manila but here you travel and travel. Maybe you can get a little more fatigue.”
With just two games remaining in the elimination round schedule and the playoffs coming up, the one-time PBA champion hopes that he can be the veteran presence the team needs. Moreover, he is hoping that he becomes the piece that gets the franchise over the hump.
“I hope to be, as the older guy and through my experiences being a PBA champion, I hope I can bring that championship experience and veteran presence to this team, bring that fire and be a mentor for these young guys and tell them what it takes to win a championship.
“It’s not easy [to win a championship]. Every team has to go through adversities and not to hang their head. Team’s go through struggles and the once that can overcome it, become closer when the struggles are happening are the ones that end up winning the championship,” he concluded.
Photo by Kuk Thew/ASEAN Basketball League