Neo impressed by foreign triallists
Slingers coach to further assess Canadian Wright and Filipino Reyes as he prepares for new ABL season
|SINGAPORE SLINGERS||YULON LUXGEN DINOS|
They made the Finals of the Asean Basketball League (ABL) in the last two seasons, but stumbled at the final hurdle to miss out on the title.
Despite a number of significant changes to the squad, Singapore Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang's mission this season remains a Finals spot.
"That is still the target... and I am still pretty confident, although now we haven't actually decided who we want for the team," said Neo at the sidelines of the Merlion Cup opening ceremony and lunch reception at a Chinese restaurant in Tanjong Katong Complex yesterday.
While swingman Xavier Alexander is back with the team, Justin Howard is out of contract, with Neo trying out Canadian centre Ryan Wright as his replacement.
Also on trial is Filipino point guard Mikee Reyes, who could fill the Asean heritage import slot for the Slingers.
Wright and Reyes featured in the Slingers' 89-69 win over the Yulon Luxgen Dinos in the Merlion Cup at the OCBC Arena last night, after joining the team just last Friday.
While Wright, 30, failed to provide the physical presence under the basket at both ends of the court the way Howard used to, the 2.06m-tall player wowed the crowd with his athleticism, as well as several slam dunks and alley-oops, en route to collecting 23 points and 10 rebounds.
"Today, my mindset was to play as hard as I could and try to be a presence on the floor and inside the paint, on offence and on defence," said Wright, who got about 28 minutes of game time last night.
"I knew I was going to be a little bit sloppy at first, a little nervous, but I knew that my teammates are going to play hard, and if I played hard as well, I was confident that we were going to have a good result."
I am pretty happy with what I saw today in the first game, and this is just the first game.Singapore Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang
Reyes, who started the match on the bench, had a quieter game with about 16 minutes of court time, but explained that he was still adjusting to the style Neo requires.
He said: "It is totally different from how I play in the Philippines, where I handle the ball a lot and I score (a lot).
"What the Slingers need of me is to play defence, to distribute the ball and to run the offence.
"(But) they also know that I can give something more than that, so hopefully I can adjust to that thin line between playing the way I play in the Philippines and playing the way I need to play in Singapore."
Neo certainly liked what he saw last night, although he also believes there are still areas to improve on.
The former national coach said: "I am pretty happy with what I saw today in the first game, and this is just the first game.
"We have to look at the second and third game to see how they go, and from there we can consider what we want for the team."
While Neo said he would lose shooting guard Leon Kwek to national service for the ABL season - the 21-year-old featured last night - he welcomed the return of Russel Low, who missed out last season due to injury.
Low, 24, said: "I've been working on my range, trying to play more outside shots instead of going to the paint for every single ball.
"This upcoming season, you'd see more of me."