The Singapore Slingers and Adelaide 36ers have embarked on a collaboration that could see a local cager play in Australia’s top-tier basketball league in the future.
After winning the Merlion Cup at the OCBC Arena last Sunday, Adelaide 36ers owner Grant Kelley shared with The New Paper about the new partnership that saw Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang and forward Leon Kwek head Down Under on Tuesday for a one-week exchange.
ActiveSG Basketball Academy coach Chiew Poh Leng was also invited.
Kelley said: “(Slingers co-owner) Mr Wee Siew Kim is a good friend and I have been a Slingers fan for the past four years that I have worked and lived here.
“And there’s obviously an Australian connection with (Slingers General Manager and assistant coach) Michael Johnson.
“This is the first of many interactions between the Adelaide 36ers and the Singapore Slingers and I’m really excited about it. I love Singapore and we want to help the basketball scene here.
“We have our own facilities at the 8,000-seater Adelaide Arena (Titanium Security Arena), a basketball programme with a strong culture and technical drills modelled after the NBA, and we welcome coach Neo and Leon.
“Some NBL teams rush to China, but I love Singapore and it is also a gateway into Asia for us in terms of exposure.”
The 36ers, who were founded in 1982, play in the National Basketball League (NBL), widely regarded as one of the top leagues outside the NBA.
Last season, the four-time champions finished top after the regular season but lost in the play-off semi-finals.
Neo said: “This is a very good opportunity we have with the 36ers for coaches and players in the long term.
“We saw the 36ers’ strategy and system at the Merlion Cup and I’m trying to build the Slingers to play like them – up-tempo, full-court press, man-to-man, with an element of zone defence.
“I hope to pick up some drills from their coach to bring back and implement with the Slingers, ahead of our own Asean Basketball League season.
“The level of basketball is definitely higher but Leon has the potential. I hope doors will open for him and others to play professionally overseas.
“The NBL allows teams to sign one Asian player each and hopefully, step by step, we will get there in the coming years.”
Although Kwek is enlisting for national service just three days after he returns on Monday, he is grateful for the stint.
The 21-year-old, who has taken part in team practices, karate, yoga and gym sessions with the 36ers, said: “Playing professionally overseas has been my goal. So, for this trip, I will seek to find out the difference between what they do and what we do.
“It’s pretty interesting to be involved in activities such as yoga, which helps improve flexibility and control, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which allows us to counter physicality.
“On the basketball floor, the intensity, communication and level of professionalism are what I’ve learnt. It’s been an eye-opener.”
Story by David Lee Newpaper