KUALA LUMPUR - The tragic death of Jacky Ng Kiat Kee from a suspected heart attack on Sunday cast a pall over the national basketball team's preparation for the Asia Championship in Manila due to begin on Thursday.
Ng, 25, collapsed while sitting on the bench during an invitational tournament in Xiamen, China and was pronounced dead after being rushed to a hospital.
The Selangor-born player had only played a few minutes in the first and third quarters of Sunday's game and teammates claimed Ng looked pale after recent training sessions.
However, Malaysian Basketball Association secretary-general Chey That Woon said Ng had not exhibited any signs of illness prior to the trip and his passing was a big loss to the country.
"He was not just a talented national basketball player, but also my employee at Farmcochem. We are very sad with what has happened," said Chey yesterday.
"He was a talented young man, intelligent and well-liked by everyone. He was even the captain of the national team for a tournament in Hong Kong last year.
"There was no indication this would happen. He seemed fine before leaving, but I heard from the team that he looked pale after training.
"On Sunday, during the game, he asked to be taken off and sat on the bench during the fourth quarter. It was then that he collapsed and was rushed to the hospital where efforts to revive him failed. We have to wait for the medical report to find out the cause."
Ng, who played for Sarawak Firehorse in last year's National Basketball League, was not part of the national team which finished second at the Southeast Asian Championship in Medan in June but had been selected for the Asia Championship.
NBL commissioner Tan Kee Hian accompanied Ng's parents to Xiamen yesterday to make arrangements to bring his body home while the national team flew to Manila.
"At this point in time, we are not even thinking about the Asia Championship as our thoughts are with Ng's family.
"Our priority now is to arrange to bring home his body. But the national team will still compete in Manila," said Chey.
Ng's fate is a rare occurrence in Malaysian sport though not the first. In 1964, national footballer Ng Peng Huat died in a diving incident at a pool in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh city) during the Asian Youth Championship.