A balanced attack was the key for the Singapore Slingers yesterday as the home team defeated Taiwan's Yulon Luxgen Dinos 89-69 in their opening Merlion Cup game at the OCBC Arena.
Five Slingers scored in double figures in the Group B tie, led by debutant centre Ryan Wright with 23 points. Fellow import Xavier Alexander just missed out on a triple-double with 18 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
The trio of Russel Low, Leon Kwek and Delvin Goh, fresh off a SEA Games campaign for Team Singapore, contributed 14, 12 and 11 points respectively.
Wright's performance was encouraging, though uneven at times.
The Canadian's hustle and athleticism were evident in a highlight putback dunk in the third quarter, but the 2.06m-tall centre also committed a game-high eight turnovers.
Said the 30-year-old: "I was a little bit sloppy at first, a little bit nervous but I knew my teammates were going to play hard and that if I did too then we would be able to get a good result."
He added that fitting in with the Slingers has been relatively "easy" so far, helped along by American Alexander, with whom he shares an agent.
"Me and X (Alexander's nickname), we had some phone conversations before I came here, and all the other players have known each other for years now," he said.
"So it's like a family here, and I'm the newest member."
Wright and Filipino point guard Mikee Reyes are playing for spots on the Slingers' roster for the upcoming Asean Basketball League (ABL) season.
Reyes had two points, three assists and two steals in over 16 minutes of play yesterday.
Low, meanwhile, is looking to build on a SEA Games shift where he was one of the national team's main weapons.
"I've been working on my range and trying to play a little more on the outside instead of going into the paint every single ball," said the 24-year-old.
He acknowledged that he and fellow big man Goh would have to step up in the new ABL season to fill the void left by American centre Justin Howard, who has left the team.
He said: "We'll have to step up on the rebounds because while Ryan is athletic he's not as big as Justin.
"But they bring very different things to the game. With Ryan, we've got the speed and athleticism to play more of a running game."
Playing before the Slingers, defending champions Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association beat Indonesia's Satria Muda Pertamina 81-69. Sharks guard Luo Hanchen was the game's top scorer with 27 points.
The other Group A tie was contested by South Korea's Jeonju KCC Egis and the Philippines' NLEX-SCTEX, with Jeonju winning 99-79.
The last team in Group B, Australia's Adelaide 36ers, play their first game against Yulon today.
This year's Merlion Cup, which runs till Sunday, sees the participation of seven teams, one more than last year.