Ng Han Bin waited for his turn on the ice tub after Singapore’s 84-66 victory over the Kaohsiung Truth. He led the Slingers in scoring with 22 points in the game as he scorched hot from the outside, making 7 of 9 attempts from the three-point area.
However, there was no special treatment for the Player of the Game, not even a preferential spot on the ice tub wait-list. He had to patiently wait his turn and did what every other Slinger did after that game. Packed his own clothes, got his own ice, carried his own bag.
For Ng, it was completely expected. There was no need for adulation or a special ovation. What he did was what was needed. How he played was part of his duty for the team.
“I have not been playing well for so long,” Ng admitted. “Sometimes it gets frustrating but I know the only way to overcome it is to keep woking and hope it pays off in the future. I’ve been working with coach (Neo Beng Siang) after practice so I’m happy it worked in this game. This is for him and for the team.”
The local three-point shooting record stood at 8, which Ray Parks Jr. set in their last win against Saigon. Ng did not know that he was that close to tying it. Also, it would not have mattered even if he knew.
“I didn’t even know about the record,” he said. “I took a lot of shots because I was open, not because I was trying to break it. We did a good job of passing the ball so there was always an open man.”
It wasn’t entirely surprising. Singapore World import Justin Howard had no idea he grabbed his 1,000th career rebound earlier in the season. He found out when his teammates saw the league’s post on Instagram. Wong Wei Long also didn’t realize that he scored his 1,000th point during the first half of their match against Kaohsiung.
“1,000 career points in the ABL. Congratulations,” Wong was told.
“Who? Me?” and a short laugh were his only replies.
The Slingers have never been about personal accolades. Their success this season is a testament to how they’ve run the team for the past few years. At first, it was about getting better. Now that they’re better, it’s about winning. There’s no space for chasing individual goals as these only serve as distractions from their ultimate goal which is to win the ABL championship.
Heading into the match, Ng knew that he’d play a big role against the Truth. Kaohsiung banked on their 2-3 zone defense in their last two wins. The Truth dared the Heat and Dragons to beat them from the outside and it paid off.
The forward checked into the game for the first time at the 4:14 mark of the first. He nailed his first three-point shot 31 seconds after. Ng got his second triple with 40 seconds remaining in the opener to give Singapore a 25-20 lead.
In the past, that would be it for Ng. He had his flashes of brilliance this season as he’d hit crucial back-to-back threes against Hong Kong in one game or grab a big rebound against Westports Malaysia on the other. However, there were also games where his presence was not even be felt by his team. In their two losses this season, Ng scored a combined 6 points.
Averaging 3.6 points per game, the frustrations slowly built up for Ng. He knew his team needed more from him. The Slingers lineup has taken a beating this season with a handful of them missing games because of National Service or school or different injuries. Yet, there he was, completely healthy and he couldn’t even help his teammates on a consistent basis.
Ng was quiet in the second period against Kaohsiung and hit one triple in the third. With the Slingers up by only 7 points heading into the final quarter, he knew he needed to play a big game for them to get the win. Howard and Xavier Alexander could not get their usual numbers as the Truth’s defense held strong inside.
It was up to him to break the dreaded zone defense. Ng did just that has he hit four more triples in final period, turning the close game into a blowout. He finished with 22 points, adding a free throw to his 7 triples.
“It’s been a long time coming, but Han Bin made some really big shots today to give us the win,” said the Slingers’ General Manager Michal Johnson. Ng led five Slingers in double digits as, aside from their imports, Wong and Leon Kwek scored a combined 27 points
“Our locals play a lot of minutes. It’s what we’ve always pushed as an organization. We bring in the imports to help our locals and not the other way around. Because of that, we took a beating for a couple of years but we’re seeing the rewards now.”
Ng started his career in the ABL’s second season where he played 15 games and averaged 2.4 points per game. In his next four seasons, he averaged 1, 0.5, 5.2 and 1.1 points, respectively. His previous career high was 13 points and he even played a game where he went 0 of 10 from the three-point area.
He weathered all these ups and downs, in actuality, far more downs than ups, with the help of his teammates and coaches. They pushed each other to be better in practice. They egged Ng to take shots even if he had confidence during the game. It didn’t matter if he went 0 of 10 in their last game, his teammates always made him believe that they all knew his next one would go in.
“It’s a long time coming,” Wong said about Ng’s performance. “We’ve been teammates for the past five years and he is one of the most hard-working members of the team. It took him a while but I always believed this will happen and I’m so happy for him today.”
“I just wanted to help out my team because all of them do their best to keep me confident so I thought this would be a good time to give them something back, to thank them for the support,” Ng said, deflecting the praise after his career game.
Ng walked out of the Kaohsiung Municipal Senior High School Gym with a couple of his teammates. The Slingers went out in small groups as they looked for food before heading back to their own hotel rooms. This was the only thing they did separately that day. Everything else they did as a group and that is where their strength lies.
Even Ng Han Bin’s career game was as much as accolade for the groups as it was for the individual. He could have only been that good with them and they could not have won without him.
“Our eyes are on the prize,” Ng, who also works full time for the Singapore Slingers’ front office, said. “We want to play for the championship so we have to train and play like a champion team.”