Basketball: Singapore basketball players shoot for SEA Games glory

Singapore’s Delvin Goh (in red) attempting a shot against Thailand at the 28th SEA Games on June 15, 2015.
Singapore’s Delvin Goh (in red) attempting a shot against Thailand at the 28th SEA Games on June 15, 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

So close, yet so far - the Singapore men's national basketball team players have had their fair share of near-misses in recent years.

With two consecutive Asean Basketball League (ABL) Finals defeats and two straight bronze-medal showings at the SEA Games, they have been knocking on the doors of glory without any major breakthroughs.

Not that it has demoralised them. On the contrary, the players remain upbeat, determined to turn those losing experiences into motivational boosts ahead of the upcoming SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.

Out of the 21-man preliminary national squad, 13 of them have played for the Singapore Slingers, runners-up of the last two ABL Finals. Forward Ng Hanbin, who was involved in both finals, insists that he and his teammates are ready to take on the next challenge despite the stinging disappointment.

"The fire is stronger every time you lose," said the 28-year-old. "As an athlete, you have to have the 'flush it' mentality.

"You've got to move on and let the losses be a motivation for you to work hard."

At the Aug 19-30 SEA Games, the players are eager to take the next step in the regional competition.

In 2013, they won a bronze after a 34-year medal drought at the Games, and then repeated the achievement in the 2015 edition.

Said centre Delvin Goh: "I always believe that we can do better than our previous results. Everyone's target is to go for gold, but I'd take anything better than what we had two years back."

However, they will face tough opposition. The Philippines, ranked No. 27 in the International Basketball Federation (Fiba) world standings, are looking to retain their title for a 12th consecutive Games.

No. 72 Indonesia are the next best-ranked South-east Asian nation, while Thailand (No. 81) are one spot above Singapore (No. 82).

Nevertheless, point guard Wong Wei Long, who represented Singapore at the 2013 and 2015 SEA Games, said: "Anything can happen. We just have to play our best in every game and play with no regrets. As long as we stay together as a unit, we're pretty hard to beat."

Ng, on the other hand, is training an extra 20 hours a week on top of national training, in a bid to improve his shooting accuracy before the Games.

The 1.94m-tall player said: "I spent a lot of extra time taking a lot of shots, so that my team can count on me when needed.

"Being in the national team programme for seven years, you really want to give something back to the association and to the fans who have supported us over the years. There's no giving up."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 06, 2017, with the headline 'S'pore basketball players shoot for SEA Games glory'. Print Edition | Subscribe