Infant League a boost to S'pore basketball

Infant League a boost to S'pore basketball
The Basketball Association of Singapore's training area

It was a potentially debilitating blow for a two-year-old basketball league: the absence of senior national team players.

Yet, this was what the Pro-Am Singapore Basketball League (SBL) faced last December, before the start of its second season.

The Basketball Association of Singapore (BAS) told the players to sit out to alleviate the packed schedule in the lead-up to June's SEA Games, where the cagers are shooting for gold on home soil.

The league could have folded; instead it continued to attract spectators.

At last Sunday's season finale, which saw Falcons Basketball beat AMK Bravehearts 89-81, the 500-capacity Delta Sports Complex was packed.

This has made SBL co-founder Zoran Vasiljev believe that his product is on the upswing.

He said: "Walking on the floor on Sunday before the game (and) seeing people pack the arena to watch the final, it tells a story by itself. I'm extremely pleased that we are already at this stage in Season Two."

The league differs from the all-local, BAS-run National Basketball League in that it also features foreign players and expatriates.

The second season saw 280 players from 28 nationalities - including some 220 locals - compete in the 12-team league.

Said national youth player Lim Jun Yuan, a starter for Falcons: "I grew a lot as a basketball player and person playing against and alongside the foreigners, some of whom played professionally before. They were experienced, physical and it was a real eye-opener."

Seah Liang Bing, the honorary secretary of the BAS, told The Straits Times earlier: "The SBL provides players with more playing time, which helps to promote the sport. That is good for Singapore basketball.

"For now, we are focused on the Singapore Slingers in the ASEAN Basketball League, which has helped to improve the national team."

Next week, Vasiljev will travel with the league's All-Star side, featuring four foreigners and eight locals, to Thailand for the Basketball Thailand Super League, an invite-only competition which features Thailand's top-three teams and sides from the Philippines and Chinese Taipei.

In July, he expects to announce the EuroAsia Basketball academy, a partnership between SBL and Real Madrid Foundation, which will conduct basketball clinics in Singapore and Indonesia.

Vasiljev, who co-founded sports management agency Sportfolio Group to run the SBL, said each season costs a six-figure sum to organise and he is still in the red, but the show will go on for at least another season.

He said: "We have raised the bar this season, and everybody expects us to continue to push. We cannot go below that."

This article was first published on April 23, 2015.
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