Ambitious Slingers target ABL title
Local club target ABL title despite missing some key names from last season's roster
They came within one match of landing their first Asean Basketball League (ABL) title, going down 3-2 in the Finals to old rivals Westports Malaysia Dragons.
While the Singapore Slingers will lose four players to transfers and National Service, that has not prevented their co-owner, general manager and assistant coach Michael Johnson from setting the bold target of going one better this season.
At Monday's ABL season launch held at the Solaire Resort and Casino in Manila, Johnson said: "The target is to win.
"With the roster we have, we are one or two injuries away from disaster. But there's no use moaning about it because no one is going to give us a break in the league.
"Our pre-season was disrupted. The Merlion Cup came a bit early for us and we sent Justin and Xavier back to America before we started training on Oct 17.
"The WTA Finals was going on at that time and we couldn't train at our home ground at the OCBC Arena, so the preparation is not as good as last year.
"Not being able to have Delvin or Russell means we are going to be very small, but on the up side, familiarity is going to keep us competitive.
"We have a good following and we expect bigger and better things this season. Our philosophy is fear no one but respect everyone."BACK AGAIN: The Singapore Slingers' Desmond Oh (above, centre) is one of the familiar faces in this season's line-up. ST FILE PHOTO
Filipino point guard Kris Rosales made the step up to Philippine Basketball Association club TNT KaTropa, while two-metre centre Delvin Goh, guard John Ng and forward Toh Qing Huang have enlisted and will be unavailable for half the season, at least.
It was originally hoped that 1.96m-tall Russell Low would return after featuring in September's Merlion Cup, but the centre has decided to focus on his university studies.
The good news is the Slingers will keep their two key American imports - crowd favourites 2.11m centre Justin Howard and swingman Xavier Alexander - while injury concerns over captain Desmond Oh and forwards Ng Hanbin and Wu Qingde should clear in time.
Coach Neo Beng Siang revealed that they will most probably complete their import line-up with 25-year-old Filipino Alexander-Stanley Austria, a 1.8m point guard affectionately known as Alli.
Former Singapore international Mitchell Folkoff, a 26-year-old small forward, should also make a return to the fray as the Slingers continue to go with just three imports - ABL teams are allowed a maximum of four.
Said Neo: "Alli was on the Pilipinas MX3 Kings roster last season but did not get much game time.
"He came to train with us over the last two weeks on the recommendation of Kris and he is training well.
"We are a running team and we don't want our point guard to hold the ball in his hand.
"Alli will be a boost on our defensive end as he is more physical and pushes the ball really well.
"At the moment, he is still struggling on offence as he is not used to our system.
"Mitch has also trained with us for the last two weeks. He has kept himself in shape by playing in local competitions and still has a strong body.
"Mitch will give us something extra on the defensive end, along with depth and experience.
"We have put more emphasis on fitness, going on hill runs, slope sprints and long-distance runs to build physical and mental strength.
"We were happy to make it to the Finals, but unhappy we didn't win, so we want to get things right this season."
The six-team ABL tips off on Nov 25 at the OCBC Arena where the Slingers host the Dragons in a repeat of last season's Finals series. Tickets for the Slingers' home matches are now on sale online at www.apactix.com, via the hotline 31588588 as well as at the Singapore Indoor Stadium box office, Scotts Square and all SingPost outlets. Visit www.singaporeslingers.com for more details about season packages.
SLINGERS' HOME GAMES
- Nov 25: Malaysia Dragons
- Dec 18: Alab Pilipinas
- Jan 8: Malaysia Dragons
- Jan 15: Hong Kong Eastern
- Feb 5: Hong Kong Eastern
- Feb 12: Alab Pilipinas
- Feb 26: Kaohsiung Truth
- March 5: Saigon Heat
- March 12: Kaohsiung Truth
- March 19: Saigon Heat