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Chua Siang Yee
Wednesday, Jul 2, 2014

Sports

Basketball: Pro-Am league will return

The Straits Times | Chua Siang Yee | Wednesday, Jul 2, 2014

Bobcats guard Powe Jamond dribbling past Adroit guard Wong Wei Long. The final featured elements of the NBA All-Star weekend, such as a three-point contest and half-court shot competition for fans.

It may not have been a National Basketball Association All-Star Weekend but fans at the Delta Sports Hall yesterday were still infected with basketball fever.

There to catch the final day of the Pro-Am Singapore Basketball League (SBL), fans were treated to a three-point shoot-out contest, two half-court shot competitions while an emcee and a music deejay ensured the 200 match-goers were kept entertained throughout the two-hour event.

Said SBL founder Zoran Vasiljev, 44: "This is our way of giving back to the fans and sponsors who've been with us for the past 23 weeks.

"We want to make it more than just a basketball match, and end the season on a high."

Fan Tan Kian Poh, 53, agreed, saying: "The organisers have made it very entertaining for spectators. It's the first time I've seen this kind of set-up in Singapore."

The season finale saw the SBL's top two teams, Adroit Sports Association and LJE Bobcats, compete for $3,000 in cash, among other prizes.

Adroit won 81-79.

Vasiljev, a Serbian-born Singaporean, said the 12-team league, which tipped off on Jan 12, will return for a second season in December, after the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) ends.

A former cager who played professionally in France, Sweden, and Serbia, he believes his competition is a success.

He explained: "We have 285 players from 26 different nationalities playing in this league. That represents the true spirit of what is a global sport.

"We have the full support of local clubs, with national players playing every week. We've provided a platform to develop local basketball."

The starting five of Adroit - Russel Low, Ng Hanbin, Wu Qingde, Larry Liew and Wong Wei Long - are all members of the national team who returned with a bronze medal at last year's SEA Games.

A concern for the league is the level of competitiveness, with national coach Neo Beng Siang highlighting the lop-sided scores as a cause for concern. Adroit, for instance, thrashed Marsiling Sonics 130-35 in their opening game. Another game saw Yishun Ballers beat MDIS Basketball 114-31 on Jan 25.

Acknowledging this, Vasiljev countered: "We'd be taking steps to ensure a high level of competitiveness. This could mean cutting down the number of teams from 12 to 10 next season."

National cager Wong, who also plays for the Singapore Slingers in the ABL, said: "The SBL gives us a game every weekend during the off-season, which means more exposure for the locals, and more opportunities for us to build our chemistry.

"Perhaps the organisers can split it into two divisions to make it more competitive, but overall it has been a great first season."

siangyee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 30, 2014.
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