Basketball

Slingers' X-Man wants nothing but the Asean Basketball League title

Last season's ABL World Import MVP sets sights on elusive crown

Singapore Slingers' star Xavier Alexander already has an impressive list of achievements, including the Asean Basketball League (ABL) World Import Most Valuable Player (MVP) award for the 2018/19 season.

The Slingers came close once again last season, finishing as play-off runners-up for the third time in four years.

For the 1.96m forward, who holds the ABL all-time records in points (2,286), assists (758), and steals (259), there is only one goal in mind for their new season, which tips off on Sunday.

As the 31-year-old, also known as the X-Man, put it: "There's no more accolades for me to win.

"My only goal is the ABL title, and I will stop at nothing to win it. The past is the past, and we're not hung up on that. We're focusing on the present."

The Slingers will have two MVPs in their roster next season, as Alexander will be teaming up with 2017 ABL World Import MVP Marcus Elliott.

The 35-year-old guard played for Hong Kong Eastern from 2016 to last season, during which they pipped the Slingers to the title two years ago.

The Slingers have also signed former Mono Vampire centre Anthony McClain, 31.

Together with the 1.91m Elliott, McClain (2.14m) will help shore up their backline as they bid to land their maiden title.

"I think defence will be key in winning the title," said Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang.

"Marcus has a lot of experience and Anthony will be able to cover us defensively, especially with his size and height."

On the local front, Neo has drafted in forward Ng Shi Yu, 19, while Leon Kwek, 23, returns from national service.

The duo will take the place of Russel Low and veteran Ng Han Bin, who has retired.

"I think Shi Yu will step up for us. It's important we give the development players opportunities to play for the team," said Neo, who was the ABL Coach of the Year in the 2015/16 season.

"And Leon will be able to fill the gap that Han Bin left."

The Slingers play their opening match of the season against Alab Pilipinas at the Santa Rosa Multi Purpose Sports Complex in Laguna on Sunday.

HAVE WHAT IT TAKES

Slingers captain Desmond Oh maintains his team will have what it takes to overcome the Philippine side.

"We'll stick to the coach's plan and push for a fast break," said the 33-year-old guard.

"Communication is always difficult in their gymnasium as the crowd is crazy and loud, but I will do whatever I can for the team and lead them, on and off the court."

Despite missing national players Delvin Goh, Kelvin Lim, Larry Liew, Lavin Raj and Kwek in training for two weeks as they were away at the SEA Games, Neo insists his team will be able to compete against the Filipinos on their home ground.

Kwek may have missed last season due to national service, but also felt the heartbreak in last season's finals.

He said: "Watching the finals on the sidelines was tough. It was heartbreaking to see my team lose. This season boils down to consistency. We need to be consistent in our game and peak at the right time."

Former player Ng had only praises and encouragement for Kwek. The 30-year-old's career was marked with injuries, which influenced his decision to retire.

"There's a 95 per cent chance I won't be returning to (competitive) basketball," said Ng, who joined the Slingers in 2010.

"But Leon will do an even better job than me. I'm confident he will be able to help the team improve; he has a lot of heart."

The Slingers will play their first home game at the OCBC Arena on Dec 22 against the Macau Wolf Warriors.

Basketball