Fri, Dec 04, 2009
Pacman rules the court

NOT too many of the kids watching basketball today would pick up on the nickname Pathman Matialakan's teammates have bestowed on him: Pacman. Pathman, Pacman... get it?

Well, for the benefit of you XBoxers out there, there was a time when computer games were played on computers and one of the first games that hit computer screens worldwide was Pacman.

Not that all this bothers the tall, well-built - he towers at 2.02m and packs enough muscle to tip the scales at 105kg - Singaporean basketball star.

He's happy to be kitted out in a Singapore Slingers vest and mixing it up with the best basketball players in Asia.

Pathman, who is one of seven Singaporean players on the Slingers' main roster this year and the only Indian who is a regular starter - Prasad Sadasivan being the other Indian on the Slingers' player list - is thrilled that his chosen sport is getting a share of the nation's sporting attention.

"The future looks bright for basketball here, especially with the Slingers in the scene. More kids are picking up the sport, be it in schools or for leisure, and the turnout for our home games has been picking up as well," he says.

As for his role in the team, which is currently second on the points table in the Asian Basketball League, he admits that, at 29, he is "a veteran whose job is to guide the younger players in the team and be ready whenever the coach needs me".

And Frank Arsego, who coaches the Slingers, does need this player who can switch between forward and centre often.

In a recent home game against the KL Dragons, Pathman was brought on every time the opponents were on a scoring streak.

It didn't change the outcome - the Slingers went down in a shock defeat - but it did ensure that the scoreline was respectable.

Pathman's path to basketball glory began when he was just shooting hoops in a neighbourhood court at the age of 14.

Like most Singaporean children his age, he was into football and basketball was just a distraction... something his height made relatively easy for him.

"A friend approached me and asked me to join a club. I was tall even when I was 14, so I decided to use it to my advantage - basketball was the right sport for me, so I switched to that," he explains.

Having picked his sport, he became an ardent NBA fan and follows the Los Angeles Lakers for their "uptempo and flamboyant style of play".

It helps that he is a huge fan of the Lakers' coach Phil Jackson too.

On a personal level, he admires Karl Malone, the Utah Jazz superstar who retired in 2004. "He played with a lot of intensity and tenacity," says Pathman, who thrives on his jumpshot, a move his idol Malone had also perfected.

His on-court demeanour is similar to that of Malone too: Both players go about their business without any fuss, and leave the high-fives and chest thumps to the others.

When he's not in his hightops, Pathman enjoys tucking into Indian food - he loves naans - and watching movies, especially those that star Kamal Hassan.

"I am a huge fan of Kamal Hassan who, in my opinion, is the greatest film actor in the world today," he says.

And on special occasions like Deepavali or any other Hindu festival, this ITE Dover grad heads for the temple.

"My parents are devout Hindus and I feel it is important to stay true to one's faith and beliefs. I hope to pass on my Hindu beliefs and learnings to my future kids as well."

That said, he drapes his arm around his girlfriend - national netball player Li Ling who matches him in height at 1.88m - and walks off into the sunset.

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