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Singapore Slingers to Continue to Lean on Local Players in New ABL Season - Nov 17, 2016

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Wei Long
After almost winning a championship a year ago, the Singapore Slingers return to the brand new ABL with high hopes and brave expectations. 'We were happy to be there but disappointed we didn't win it,' Slingers assistant Michael Johnson said during the league's press conference. 'Our mindset is there to win it. We have a goal of winning it this year.' The Slingers recently resigned their two American imports - Alexander Xavier (198-G-88, college: S.Nazarene) and Howard Justin (208-C-81, college: Mercer), solidifying their frontcourt. Alexander is an athletic big man who can do multiple things on the floor. Last season, he had averages of 19. 3 PPG, 9.7 RPG, and 5.4 assists. He was also an asset defensively, registering 2.4 steals per outing. Howard meanwhile, looks to be same strong and reliable big man for his team. The 6'11' center led the league last year in rebounds, hauling down nearly 16 a game to go along with his 20-point average. Aside from the stellar play of their imports, Singapore has also consistently relied on their locals to step up their game. Two-time Local MVP Wong Wei Long (187-G-88), three-point shooter Wu Qingde, and veteran guard Desmond Oh (178-PG-86), were among the players who were instrumental in the Slingers' journey to the ABL finals. The Slingers' well-balanced attack from its locals made them a deadly team to go along with their imports Alexander and Howard. They were also able to utilize the unique skills of their ASEAN Heritage import Kris Rosales (183-G, college: Hope International). The Filipino-American point guard kept his team together and made everybody involved in their offense. 'We've had five locals last year that played between 18 and 30 minutes a game. That's a lot of minutes. So it's not just show, it's actually quality minutes and exposure to the game,' said Johnson. Wei Long, Qingde, and Oh will all suit up this season, but a huge blow for the Slingers is the loss of big man Delvin Goh. The hardworking center will be unavailable due to his commitment to the national military service program. 'He's gonna be a big loss for us,' admitted Johnson. Still, the longtime coach and the rest of the Slingers remain confident all their local players will improve their game. 'We've gone with the philosophy of having one less import than everyone else,' he explained. 'At any one time, we've got to have two locals on the floor. The exposure to actually play on a regular basis is invaluable.' True enough, Singapore only had the services of three out of a possible four imports on their roster. This year, they look to do the same. Alexander and Howard have already signed with the team. Singapore is now gaining interest in getting Filipino guard Alli Austria to replace Kris Rosales. 'We see a lot of Kris in Alli. So we see a pretty big upside in him. He's a great kid. We're looking at him and we'll make a decision over the next few days whether he's gonna stay on. But at this stage there's a good chance he'll be our third import starting the season.' With a bolstering frontcourt and reliable local talent, the Singapore Slingers hope to return to the promise land this season. And this time, they're eyes are set on taking home the gold. 'We'll be doing everything we can to make it to get to the final and win it. We have a philosophy of no excuses,' Johnson concluded.
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