Positive mind helps Kwek's comeback
Slingers' forward hopes to regain his old form and help them reach the final and win it for first time
Over recent weeks, Singapore Slingers fans have been rewarded with resurgent displays by their team and the return to the fray of last season's breakout star Leon Kwek.
But his comeback to the court has not been without a struggle.
|SINGAPORE SLINGERS||CLS KNIGHTS INDONESIA|
After a brilliant season, national service (NS) enlistment in October interrupted the forward's training schedule, resulting in a dip in form.
Kwek admitted that working to regain his shape has been an uphill task.
He said: "There was a lot of frustration because you know that you used to compete at a high level and are capable of contributing to the team.
"Now you're sort of back to square one and you have to pick up the momentum again."
The 21-year-old found his way to the team sheet thrice but played for only two minutes.
But, since completing his Basic Military Training (BMT) in mid-January, his daytime duties in the air force has allowed him to attend daily night training sessions.
Teammates Delvin Goh and Larry Liew are also juggling with NS and training. Goh follows a similar training regimen as Kwek, but Liew's availability depends on his shifts.
Returning to the court has been a boost to Kwek's confidence. The 1.88m player said: "It just reaffirms that you're capable of doing something.
"It also shows that even if you're taken away two months from the sport, as long as you work hard, you'll definitely be able to come back."
Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang was satisfied with Kwek's performance in their 89-86 win over Chongson Kung Fu in the Asean Basketball League last Sunday, when he came on in the third quarter to score two crucial points.
But Neo believes that he has not reached his full potential.
He said: "Overall he did a good job. He played what we wanted from him.
"I know that he can give the team a lot more. He missed out for half a year without touching a ball, so when he comes for training, he's on and off.
"But at this stage, he has a few periods of block leave so that will help him get in better game shape."
We're now peaking. We're just three games away from the play-offs.Singapore Slingers forward Leon Kwek
Maintaining a positive mindset was key for Kwek as he fought to recover his game.
He said: "Our coaches always teach us to be very positive, whatever happens.
"My teammates also encouraged me, telling me to just keep believing in myself and keep doing what I'm good at."
For Kwek, pursuing his passion for basketball while fulfilling his NS commitments leaves him with four to five hours of sleep, but he feels that it is a sacrifice worth making.
He said: " That's just another sacrifice that you've got to make to do something that you love."
Ahead of their game against eighth-placed CLS Knights Indonesia, Kwek hopes that the Slingers can put up a good show for the final home game of the regular season.
Since watching his first Slingers game seven years ago, Kwek said that the home support has grown and that backing has been important to the team.
"We're very thankful for that, so hopefully we will put on a good show this Sunday."
Kwek, who played a key role in the Slingers' reaching the final last year, is optimistic about a repeat.
He said: "We're now peaking. We're just three games away from the play-offs.
"We're trying to get back the defensive mojo that we've been known for during the two years that we made it to the final.
"We've been twice short, so this year we're a lot more determined to go back there and earn our first championship."