Singapore Slingers Leon Kwek: Basketball made me a better person
Shooting star Kwek has matured to be a model of consistency for Slingers this season
|WESTPORTS MALAYSIA DRAGONS||SINGAPORE SLINGERS|
He used to lose his cool easily, throw tantrums and point fingers after losing a match.
While the fierce competitive streak still rages in Singapore Slingers shooting guard Leon Kwek, much about him has changed in his meteoric rise to become one of the Asean Basketball League (ABL) stars this season.
"Basketball has made me a better person. I have learnt that it is not all about me, it's about what we do as a team," said the 20-year-old Republic Polytechnic sports and leisure management student.
Currently in his sophomore ABL season, Kwek is already the leading scorer on the Slingers' local roster, which includes two-time local MVP Wong Wei Long.
The 1.88m-tall Kwek is averaging 13 points per game on the back of a 47.9 per cent field-goal conversion rate.
In just six games, he has already set two new career-highs - scoring 20 points against Westports Malaysia Dragons and improving the mark to 23 in a win over Saigon Heat just over a week later.
Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang said: "For a junior player, we expect Leon to be up and down.
"But Leon has been scoring consistently, especially from mid-range, so we are pretty happy with his contributions."
For a junior player, we expect Leon to be up and down. But Leon has been scoring consistently, especially from mid-range, so we are pretty happy with his contributionsSlingers coach Neo beng Siang on shooting guard Leon Kwek
Surprisingly, Kwek did not really like basketball when he was younger and chose cross-country as his Co-Curricular Activity.
As a nine-year-old, his mother did not feel comfortable leaving him out of her sight, so the neighbourhood basketball court was the farthest he could venture out of his Yishun home.
There, he marvelled at the dunking abilities of former Singapore international Hong Wei Jian, who was nicknamed "Flyboy" for his metre-high vertical jumps.
"If he can do it, so can I," Kwek thought back then.
He said: "After I watched him and the Slingers play at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in front of thousands of fans, 'Flyboy' was the one who first showed me that if you work hard and strive every day, it is possible to reach those heights."
There is a sense of unfinished business in the Slingers camp after they came so close to winning their first ABL title last season - they lost 3-2 to the Dragons in the Finals series.
Especially more so for Kwek, who had started his rookie season well before contracting dengue fever last year.
Tonight, they will get the chance to add to the Dragons' misery at the Gem-In Mall in Selangor.
Following in the Slingers' footsteps in their preparation for the South-east Asia Games in August, the Dragons play with three imports instead of four. But they seem to be struggling.
"We even made a T-shirt with the words 'unfinished business', and every game against Malaysia has an extra edge to it," revealed Kwek.
"We are unbeaten at home, which is good.
"If we can maintain that, then results on the road will be very important for us to finish top during the regular season.
"We just missed out on that last season and it cost us during the Finals, which could have changed the outcome.
"This is why we will continue to go into every match, home or away, with the same aggression we have shown."