Sharpshooter Wong ready for 'dogfight'

PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/MAINBASKET

Knights star says Finals clash with Slingers is '50-50'; Neo wary of what ex-player can do

Even as blood trickled down from a nasty gash above his left eye after he was struck by a stray elbow in the final quarter, CLS Knights Indonesia guard Wong Wei Long had only one thought on his mind.

He wanted to continue playing in the Asean Basketball League (ABL) semi-final Game 3 decider against Mono Vampire in Surabaya last Sunday. He had been on fire, knocking down five three-pointers before the accident.

But, after receiving treatment, the 30-year-old Singaporean was advised to sit out. In the end, he was able to celebrate the 89-75 victory before going to the hospital to receive six stitches for the wound.

His reward is a third visit to the ABL Finals, this time against his former employers Singapore Slingers. Game 1 tips off tomorrow at the OCBC Arena.

Wong was part of the Slingers team who lost to Westports Malaysia Dragons and Hong Kong Eastern in the 2016 and 2017 Finals respectively.

The two-time ABL Local Most Valuable Player has declared himself fit for the opener and expects the best-of-five series to be a "dogfight".

He told The Straits Times: "The Slingers were third in the regular season and we were fourth. Our head-to-head was 2-2 and both teams won once home and away, so it really is 50-50.

"The Slingers have home-court advantage, but we will also be looking at it as an opportunity to steal one or two wins to take back to Surabaya, where it is really tough for teams to beat us because of the noisy atmosphere that will be up another notch for the Finals.

  • ABL FINALS (BEST-OF-FIVE)

  • GAME 1

    OCBC Arena, tomorrow, 8pm

    GAME 2

    OCBC Arena, Sunday, 4pm

    GAME 3

    Surabaya, Wednesday, 7pm

    GAME 4*

    Surabaya, May 11, 7pm

    GAME 5*

    OCBC Arena, May 15, 8pm

    *If needed

"The coaches have analysed the strengths and weaknesses of the Slingers and I will also use my knowledge to give the team input.

"It has been a great season for both teams. I will be happy no matter which team win but, of course, if I can win with the Knights, I will be much happier.

"Nobody wants to come so far to lose. It will boil down to who wants it more."

In only their second season in the ABL, the Knights have done well to rebound from a difficult start in which they won two of their first eight games to qualify for the play-offs and their first Finals.

Much of their success is down to their imports - centre Darryl Watkins, a former player of National Basketball Association (NBA) side Sacramento Kings, and guard Doug Herring Jr, who won the National Basketball League of Canada with London Lightning last year.

Wong also played his part with a career-best scoring average of 10.4 points per game. The all-time ABL three-point scorer - with 252 treys made - is also converting 43 per cent of his shots from beyond the arc.

Knights coach Brian Rowsom, a former Indiana Pacers and Charlotte Hornets power forward, told ST: "Wei Long's three-point ability is very big for us. And, because he is a good shooter, the (opposition) defence has to come out more, which makes it easier for our big guys like Maxie Esho and Darryl to post up and penetrate.

BATTLE OF WILL

Nobody wants to come so far to lose. It will boil down to who wants it more.

WONG WEI LONG, CLS Knights guard, on the key factor in the ABL Finals.

"He gives me a lot of confidence because I know that when a game is close, he can make a big shot for us. That really helps us because in the play-offs, many games are very close."

Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang is wary of what his former player is capable of, but is quietly confident they can nullify his threat.

The Slingers limited Wong to just five points in their last three encounters, although he scored 18 points in the Knights' 89-74 win over them in their first meeting of the season in January.

He said: "I'm proud that a local player can represent Singapore to play for an overseas team. For him to be able to step up after sitting out one season (to focus on his Scholar Basketball Academy in Singapore) shows he is a tough player.

"But we are more concerned about how we play as a team than focus on one particular player."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2019, with the headline 'Sharpshooter Wong ready for 'dogfight''. Print Edition | Subscribe