Fresh off their near title miss in the Asean Basketball League (ABL), the Singapore Slingers have an exciting pre-season to look forward to as the Merlion Cup is set to make its return after a 20-year hiatus.
The Basketball Association of Singapore (BAS) announced on Sunday evening that the tournament, last held in 1996, will feature six teams in a round-robin format, with five professional foreign teams invited to face off at the OCBC Arena from Sept 21-25.
The Slingers, who finished second in the ABL, will represent the Republic ahead of the new season in November. Yet it remains unclear if fans will see the same core of players who came so close to clinching a first-ever title in March.
Young cagers Delvin Goh and Toh Qing Huang may miss out owing to National Service obligations, while import Kris Rosales had signed for Philippine Basketball Association side Talk 'N Text Tropang Texters.
Americans Justin Howard and Xavier Alexander have indicated their desire to return, though assistant coach Michael Johnson reiterated that priority is with the locals.
A GOOD EXPERIENCE
It's a great opportunity to try out some local players, and maybe trial imports against quality opposition.
MICHAEL JOHNSON, Singapore Slingers assistant coach, on taking part in the Merlion Cup.
Johnson also expressed hope that veterans Larry Liew and Russel Low will be available for selection. The duo did not play last season due to NS and studies respectively.
There will be no lack of motivation as the Slingers will face a familiar foe in ABL champions Westports Malaysia Dragons, who edged the Finals series 3-2.
Johnson, however, insisted that revenge is not on the agenda. He said: "It's only pre-season, I'm sure they will treat it the same way as us. The only way we can avenge the loss is to win in the next ABL final."
The tournament will also feature Chinese team the Shanghai Sharks, owned by former National Basketball Association star Yao Ming.
Teams from Australia and Chinese Taipei will also be invited to strut their stuff on court, though the fifth team has yet to confirm its participation.
Johnson said: "It's a great opportunity to try out some local players, and maybe trial imports against quality opposition."
The Merlion Cup, which used to be held at the old Gay World Stadium in Geylang, was discontinued after its ninth edition.