By Jericho Ilagan | SingaporeSlingers.com
Singapore – A revamped squad. Retooled. Improved. Out for redemption.
These were the goals that Michael Johnson and Neo Beng Siang, General Manager and Head Coach of the JobStreet.com Singapore Slingers, respectively, had in mind during the off-season.
Missing the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) playoffs for the first time last season, the JobStreet.com Singapore Slingers, Singapore’s first and only professional basketball team, signed local standouts Mitchell Folkoff, Wu Qingde, and Goh Teck Beng from the Singapore National Basketball League (NBL) to improve their squad.
“Mitch and Qingde adds hard nosed defense and toughness to the roster while Beng brings speed and open court explosiveness. It will be interesting to see how quickly they can adapt to the level of play in the ABL,” said Johnson.
Folkoff & Qingde, have both played on the Singapore National Team at the 2011 South East Asian (SEA) Games. Mitch, Qingde & Beng also joined the Slingers in the Cable Beach Invitational Tournament in Broome, Western Australia, where they played against the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions, and the Shanghai Sharks, top teams from the Chinese Basketball Association, and Australia National Basketball League (NBL) Finalist Perth Wildcats.
American Import Kyle Jeffers and ASEAN Import Don Dulay are back this year. Jeffers finished the 2012 ABL Season with 19.11 ppg and led the Slingers in rebounding with 12.67 rebounds per game. Dulay led the team in assists with 4.33 per game, which was good enough for 3rd best in the ABL in 2012.
Coach Neo said: “Having our starting point guard and centre from last year gives us a stable platform for 2013. Both players are familiar and comfortable in our system and we expect them both to lead by example.”
The Singaporean Sensation Duo of Desmond Oh and Wong Wei Long, who both had a breakout year last season, leads the local cast. Both players had notable performances against taller, faster, and more experienced opponents during the Cable Beach Invitational Tournament.
Another Singaporean who saw his playing time increase last year is Lim Sheng Yu. More is also expected of him this year with the retirement of Steven Khoo and Pathman Matialakan. “It was very heartbreaking when we missed the playoffs last year. However, it also serves as motivation for myself and the team to do better this year. Last year’s early exit made us hungrier to be successful this season,” said Sheng Yu.
One of the pitfalls the Slingers had last year was rebounding. The team ranked 6th overall in rebounding with 34.48 per game. In their 12 losses, the Slingers were outrebounded by their opponents by an average of 4 rebounds per game. That’s 4 more possessions, around 8 to 12 more points on the scoreboard. Here’s one more interesting fact – the average margin of loss by the Slingers last year was 8 points.
Enter Rashad Jones-Jennings. During his tenure at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, Jones-Jennings led the US National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in rebounding. Jones-Jennings most recently strutted his wares in the Taiwan Super Basketball League (SBL) and was adjudged Most Valuable Player (MVP).
“Rashad has been great since Day 1. He is a team player who is a monster on the boards. With Kyle & Rashad, we expect to be more competitive on the rebounds in 2013,” added Coach Neo.
Another addition to the team is ABL veteran Junjun Cabatu. He suited up previously for the AirAsia Philippine Patriots and the San Miguel Beermen. Prior to playing in the ABL, Cabatu played in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) with the Welcoat Dragons (now Rain or Shine Elasto Painters), Alaska Aces, and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.
“Jun brings a veterans background to the roster. At the same time, Jun will get the opportunity to play more minutes than he has in the past. Jun has the potential to be a major contributor on the offensive & defensive ends for us this season,” said Johnson.
With most needs addressed within the roster, another area of concern was how cohesive the new squad will be, considering there are 5 new faces in the team.
“So far, we have played 7 games this offseason – 3 in Australia, 3 in the Philippines, and 1 in Malaysia. We have also trained since the 1st week of December. We do what we can do with what we have. We soldier on, as they say. I was very disappointed that we did not make the playoffs last year. However, our setback last year serves as our motivation this year. Our fans and fellow Singaporeans will be happy with what they will see on the court this year,” said Coach Neo Beng Siang.
In Seasons 1 and 2 of the ABL, the Slingers missed the Finals by 1 game, as they bowed out of contention during the Playoffs. Last season, they did not make the playoffs. The setback last year might be the push the team needs to finally win it all.
Although two teams are not joining the ABL this year (Bangkok Cobras and AirAsia Philippine Patriots), all the other teams have beefed up. The Saigon Heat signed Filipino-American Philip Morrison and Jai Reyes, formerly of the Bangkok Cobras. The Philippines’ San Miguel Beermen signed up PBA veterans Eric Menk and Asi Taulava, and American Imports Brian Williams (formerly of the Westports Malaysia Dragons) and ABL veteran Gabe Freeman, who led the Patriots to back to back Finals stints. Westports Malaysia Dragons has American Import Cedric Bozeman and 6’6″ Filipino-Tongan Moala Tautuaa. The Chang Thailand Slammers will be Coached by Joe Bryant. They have also resigned Froilan Baguion, who helped them get the crown in 2011. The 2012 ABL Champions Indonesia Warriors is bringing back Jerick Canada, Steven Thomas, and Stanley Pringle, and added 6’8″ Filipino-American in Rich Smith.
“Almost all of the teams went big this year. Overcoming hurdles is nothing new to myself and the team. We’re ready.” said Coach Neo.
The JobStreet.com Singapore Slingers will play their first game of the season against the Chang Thailand Slammers on January 13, 2013 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Tip off is at 3PM. Tickets are available thru Sistic.
For up to date information about the JobStreet.com Singapore Slingers, always log on to the team’s official website, www.singaporeslingers.com. You may also follow us on Facebook, www.facebook.com/OfficialSingaporeSlingers and on Twitter, www.twitter.com/SGSlingers.