Singapore National Games: Learning a 2-way street for national cager

Braddell Heights forward Leon Kwek going up for a basket against Siglap in the Singapore National Games, which conclude tomorrow.
Braddell Heights forward Leon Kwek going up for a basket against Siglap in the Singapore National Games, which conclude tomorrow.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

At age 19, Leon Kwek is the youngest member of Braddell Heights Community Sports Club's basketball squad for the Singapore National Games (SNG).

But his youth does not deter the other members of the 12-strong squad from looking to the national player for advice during training and matches.

Apart from featuring at the SEA Games on home ground last year, he also competed at last year's South-east Asia Basketball Championships and the Asean Basketball League with the Singapore Slingers.

And while the Republic Polytechnic student is happy to provide advice when he is asked, he is quick to admit he is not old enough to be a guru.

"As the youngest in the team, I'm supposed to be learning from my team-mates so I'm actually not as comfortable giving them tips," said Leon, who had started training with his SNG team-mates two months ago.

"I'll just share my experiences when they ask, and I don't always think I'm right because I'm still young.

"So through talking to my team-mates, I also learn more about the game from them."

The 1.9m tall forward believes there is another reason he is frequently approached for advice - his height.

He said with a laugh: "It's probably because I'm the tallest and easiest to spot in the team."

For team-mate Cheong Wei Liang, Leon's international experience has proved to be an asset to the team, especially during crucial moments.

Recalling a match where their opponents had led by a point with just eight seconds of play left, 24-year-old Cheong said: "Our coach drew up a game plan and Leon guided us so that everyone had a chance to perform and execute the plan well.

"We eventually won 64-63, and when he takes the lead in crucial moments like these, it motivates the rest of us tremendously."

Leon emphasised there is no divide between him and the rest of his SNG team-mates, adding: "To me the SNG is not about me being a national athlete, but more importantly about the opportunity to bond with my team-mates and get to know them better.

"Basketball is a team sport so if we know one another better, we can play better.

"We're friends after all, and we put our egos aside and crack jokes with one another - that's the ultimate way to bond as team-mates."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2016, with the headline 'Learning a 2-way street for national cager'. Print Edition | Subscribe