KUCHING: Sarawak are not placing high hopes on the state’s non-Chinese cagers to do well at the 16th Maba- Petronas Cup National Basketball Championship at the Maba Stadium in Kuala Lumpur from Oct 16-21.
According to Sarawak Basketball Association (SBA) chairman Lim Kaa Kuan, this was because the team are a very young side that comprised mainly of students and lack match experience.
They are also the youngest in the 11-team non-Chinese championship, with the youngest player aged 15 and the eldest aged 22.
“We are sending a team to the national championship just to participate and let our young players gain exposure,” Lim told a press conference at SBA training stadium at Seng Goon Garden here Thursday night.
He was appreciative of the special arrangement by the organisers to allow Sarawak compete towards the end of the competition which was from Nov 15-21.
“This will help us to greatly reduce expenses,” he pointed out.
Team coach Michael Chan is hoping that his boys can put up a good fight in Group A and reach the semi-finals.
“We are drawn in a ‘group of death’ which include last year’s runners-up Kuala Lumpur who have a number of national players in the line-up, PDRM (Police), ATM (Armed Forces), Perak and Pahang,” he said.
Chan picked Kuala Lumpur and PDRM as the toughest opponents in the group while Sarawak are confident of beating Perak and Pahang.
“The strength of PDRM and ATM also depend on whether their best players are always moving around,” said Chan.
Sarawak will start their campaign against Kuala Lumpur next Monday, followed by matches against Kuala Lumpur, Perak, PDRM and wrap up their final group match against ATM on Nov 19.
In the other group, last year’s third placing Selangor, Perlis, Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan and Kedah will vie to finish among the top two teams to advance to the last four to be played on Nov 20.
Last year’s champions Johor are not returning to defend their title. Led by team manager Liu Jan Kwang, the Sarawak team consist of Devaraj Shanmugam (captain), Abg Mohd Elna Fiqri Abg Let, Muhammad Azlan Baihaki, Amirul Syahmi Ardi, Robert Bellarmine Dobby, Mohamad Ridzuan Sofi, Abg Mohd Nor Faiz, Mohamad Hilal Jalal, Mohammad Noor Hanis, Hizzi Samsudin, Azri Nazirul Amin and Empam Ruke.
About half of the team are from SM Sains while 88 per cent of the players are from Kuching.
“One thing I like most about this team is that all the players are very committed and have strong fighting spirit and I do believe they are raring to go and win something for the state this time around,” said Chan, adding that at the last championship, Sarawak finished last out of 11 teams.
The state team will depart to Kuala Lumpur today.