SINGAPORE - When Thng Yong-An was named captain of the C Division boys' basketball team of Unity Secondary School for this year's campaign, the 14-year-old knew what he had to do.
The team had finished third in last year's national competition and were regarded as good enough to claim the top prize this year.
But Secondary 2 student Yong-An noticed early on that his teammates were split into two cliques. Well aware that the team had to work together if they wanted to win the C Division trophy, the 1.72mtall point guard decided to take action.
"One group would hang out with each other while the other did their own thing because some of them didn't like each other," said Yong-An.
"During recess, I would ask them to come sit and eat together or just hang out together.
"I tried to get them to bond together, but they didn't listen, initially.
"I thought of giving up, but I had no choice but to get my team to bond."
After four months, Yong-An's perseverance began to pay off as his teammates started to gel with one another.
By the time the West Zone C Division Championships came round in July, Unity were flying, finishing unbeaten to clinch their sixth straight zone title since 2008.
For Yong-An, watching the team form a chemistry and flourish has been one of the highlights of the year.
He said: "I've made a lot of friends playing basketball and to have the team bond together was really rewarding for me.
"From being strangers, to friends, then to best friends and then to becoming 'brothers' - that's the best part."
Unity's strong season culminated in the C Division boys' final against Dunman Secondary School on Monday.
In a tightly-contested match at the Jurong East Sports Hall, the Choa Chu Kang-based school overcame a late scare to beat Dunman 67-64, with Yong- An playing a starring role, scoring 31 points to earn the tournament's Most Valuable Player award.
Robin Goh, one of the teachers in charge of the boys' teams at Unity, believes Yong-An has been a model leader.
The 31-year-old said: "Besides his skills, Yong-An is able to bring out the best in the rest and gel everyone together, which is the most important thing for me.
"He is a well-behaved boy and, in terms of academics and in CCAs (co-curricular activities), he is well-respected by his peers for what he has done."
While Yong-An is eager to test himself in the B Division next year, he is also hoping he can help the C Division team retain their title.
"Everything in the B Division is different and the players are good, so I have to be better and stronger to win," said Yong-An.
"I'm hoping for another championship and I also hope I can help my juniors retain our (C Division) title as well."
Get The New Paper for more stories.