Slingers to contest ABL without key duo

Russel Low.
Russel Low.
Larry Liew.
Larry Liew.

Low to focus on studies while Liew, a police officer, is unable to train regularly for now

The Singapore Slingers will be without two key players for the upcoming Asean Basketball League (ABL) season, which tips off on Oct 27.

Missing are Russel Low and Larry Liew, who both played an integral role in Singapore clinching a second successive bronze at June's SEA Games on home soil.

They were also part of the team who ended the Singapore men's 34-year medal drought at the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar.

Low, a first-year business student at Nanyang Technological University, is sitting out to focus on his studies. Liew has signed on as a regular with the Singapore Police Force and is unable to train regularly for the time being. Both are 22.

TOUGH CHOICE

It was a difficult decision, but I'll still play for my school and club (National Basketball League team SBPHK Hornets), and I want to make the team for the 2017 SEA Games.

RUSSEL LOW, whose priority is his NTU degree course for now

SECOND OPTION

I will try to join the team for training on weekends.

LARRY LIEW, who is unable to train regularly after signing on as a full-time police officer

Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang, who also coaches the national team, said: "We are eyeing the ABL championship, so it's a big loss.

"But they have made their decision, it is for their future, and we must support them.

"We have called up some younger players this season, and this is their chance to step up and prove that they are capable."

Among the rookies signed for the new campaign are Toh Qing Huang, 20, John Ng, 21, Leon Kwek, 19, and Kelvin Lim, 19.

Third-year centre Delvin Goh, who finished with the third-most rebounds for the national team at the recent Fiba Asia Championship in China, where they finished 15th, also looks set to enjoy an extended spell on court with Low's absence.

But the Slingers are expected to face an uphill task without stalwarts Liew and Low, who averaged the second- and third-most minutes per game at the SEA Games.

Shooting guard Liew was a key member of the offence at the Games, averaging a team-high 13.7 points per game over six matches. Low, meanwhile, was instrumental in the paint with 51 rebounds, the second-highest in the tournament.

Both were understandably disappointed to be missing out.

Said Low: "In August, I tried to juggle national team training with school but it was tough. I don't drive, so a lot of time is spent travelling from campus (in Jurong) to the Singapore Sports Hub (in Kallang).

"It was a difficult decision, but I'll still play for my school and club (National Basketball League team SBPHK Hornets), and I want to make the team for the 2017 SEA Games."

The team's full-timers train 10 times a week, for two hours per session. Part-timers manage five two-hour sessions a week.

Liew added: "I will try to join the team for training on weekends.

"Hopefully I can get back to training soon and start preparing for the next SEA Games."

Neo, 48, said the doors to the national team and Slingers are still open: "They are still young, they know our system, and they won't lose their touches. These two guys are still very important. They still have many years ahead of them."

The Slingers, who finished third among the six teams to make the ABL play-offs last year, open their campaign away to defending champions Hi-Tech Bangkok City.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2015, with the headline 'SLINGERS TO CONTEST ABL WITHOUT KEY DUO'. Print Edition | Subscribe