Injury-hit Slingers turns to former NBA centre
Former NBA centre signed on a 10-day contract to help relieve injury woes
|KAOHSIUNG TRUTH||SINGAPORE SLINGERS|
The Singapore Slingers will face a big test of their character in the next few weeks.
Their hopes of finishing top at the end of the Asean Basketball League (ABL) season to secure top seeding and home-court advantage for the play-offs suffered a blow last week when they lost 64-62 to the Alab Pilipinas.
With a 10-4 win-loss record, the Slingers are second behind Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions.
To add to their woes, forward Wu Qingde is ruled out of the season with a knee injury, while small forward Mitchell Folkoff is also sidelined with a shoulder problem. Perhaps the biggest blow for coach Neo Beng Siang is the loss of big centre Justin Howard for at least two games due to a curved toe.
What the Slingers will sorely miss is not just his 2.11-metre physical presence, but his outstanding averages of 23.8 points and 17.6 rebounds per game.
To help ease the injury situation, the Slingers moved swiftly to secure the services of former Chicago Bulls and Portland Trail Blazers centre Luke Schenscher of Australia on a 10-day contract, while Howard will be played on the reserve list.
The 2.16m-tall Schenscher most recently played for Townsville Heat in the Queensland Basketball League last year.
"We have to thank national coach Frank Arsego for his connections in helping us sign Luke on such short notice," said Neo.
"Luke arrived in Singapore at 4.30pm on Thursday and, after checking in, he went straight to training with us at 7pm.
"He may be 34, but he has played in the NBA before and we are happy to have his physical presence."
The Slingers will also have to fight fatigue.
Not only are they the only team in the league to have played overtime in four matches, they also need two days to get to Taiwan to take on Kaohsiung Truth tomorrow due to flight issues.
"Our trip to Taiwan is going to be a long one. Flights to Kaohsiung are sold out, so we have to fly to Taipei before taking a train down south," said Neo.
"It is tiring, but we are still going for a win, no excuses."
After making a blistering start to the season, the Slingers have lost four games - all agonisingly by just two points - to relinquish control at the summit of the ABL table.
But Neo and his men are not giving up on top spot without putting up a good fight.
He said: "We have to hope Alab Pilipinas beat Eastern in at least two of their three remaining encounters, but we also have to win our last six games.
"Our decision-making was lacking in some games.
"We became too attacking-minded and were poor in defence. We also shot poorly, so we have been working on shooting in our morning sessions and our defence in the evening.
"I need every player to contribute consistently. If we can achieve that, we believe we can still finish first."