In the first game of the Merlion Cup 2017, Coach Neo Beng Siang got to test out his two new players. New Slingers Ryan Wright, Mikee Reyes got their first chance to play for the Singapore based team and did a solid job.
“I think we are doing well with the new players,” Local player Russel Low says. “They are doing very well. They are very friendly and easy to talk to. We are trying to bring them to our system and everything’s been going well.”
“I really like what I saw,” Coach neo said after the game. “The two [new] imports, Mikee as well. He’s not a scorer but he can set up the floor. On defense, he puts really good pressure which is what we need.”
26-year-old Reyes is a guard hailing from the Philippines who has had several stints in semi-professional leagues after his collegiate career in at the University of Philippines. Reyes signed a one-game contract with ABL Team Kaohsiung Truth last season and he’s hoping a strong performance in the Merlion Cup here will get him a longer deal this time.
“Honestly, what [the Singapore Slingers] told me is that they need me to play a certain way,” Reyes said after his debut. “which is to play defense and to distribute the ball to run the offense but they also know that I can give something more than that.”
“Hopefully I can adjust to that thin line between playing the way I used to play in the Philippines and playing the way I need to play here in Singapore. If I can mix that up, it will be better for both parties. Hopefully I can adapt and adjust quickly.”
Reyes shot only 1-6 from the field against the Yulon Luxgen Dinos but he provided what the team asked from him, getting 3 assists and 2 steals. There’s still some things to adjust between Reyes and the Slingers, but it seems like they are starting off in the right direction.
“They know I’m willing to pass the ball,” Reyes says. “They all should know that I can score. So if they see me open, they can give me the ball. It’s all just a matter of them trusting me as much as I trust them, so it’s a good fit hopefully.”
“To me it is. hopefully to them it is, too.”
While Reyes is taking his time adjusting to the team and the role he is asked to play, fellow newcomer Ryan Wright seems to have hit it off early with a bit of a headstart.
“It’s been very easy so far,” Wright says of his process of meshing with team. “With [Xavier Alexander], I know him personally. Me and X we have the same agent so we’ve had phone conversations before I came here.
“So I kind of know him already and the players have known each other for years now. It’s kind of like I’m just coming into a family. We’re already a family and I’m the newest member so it’s easy for me to have a good transition here.”
Wright had a bumpy start to his debut game in the first quarter, but he got more comfortable as the game progressed both on offense and defense.
“When [Ryan] came over, he had one role which is to protect the paint,” Reyes says of his fellow trialist import. “That’s what he’s been doing his whole career, so it’s easier for him to adjust to it. He’s used to being the big guy on the floor so there’s no really big adjustment for him and I’m really happy that hes been adjusting well with the Slingers.”
After a putback dunk in the middle of the second quarter got him into the groove, Wright finished the game with a strong 23 points and 10 rebounds, but also had 8 turnovers to his name.
“Under the basket he’s pretty strong,” Coach Neo says of his recruit. “One thing I really don’t like is that when he puts the ball on the floor and gets double-teamed, he still keeps on going instead of kicking out and letting the defense move.”
“But definitely we’ll work it out. It’s been just three practices and I’m happy with what I see now.”
Wright had big shoes to fill in, coming in to replace 2016-2017 ABL Defensive Player of the Year Justin Howard who had played with the Slingers for three straight seasons. Howard anchored the team, averaging 21.3 points and 16.0 rebounds per game as a Slinger over a total of 58 games. Still, Wright had a positive mindset heading into his debut about what he will be bringing to the table.
“I’m just trying to bring a big presence inside the paint on offense and defense. I’m also just going to try to bring leadership and lead by example.”
“Just playing hard, and being a leder with my actions.”
The two players bring two different games to the team which is something Coach Neo will have to adjust to according in his gameplans.
“Ryan’s more athletic,” Coach Neo says. “With any penetration, he’s there to protect the rim so that lets our players feel confident on defense. He really runs hard up and down the court.”
“Justin had good range outside the paint which Ryan lacks of but anything can possibly work out.”
“With Ryan we have speed,” Ruseel Low adds. “We have the running game and we’re more athletic, but with Justin we had the height and the size so it’s a bit different.
“This season i think we can push the ball a bit quicker and we can run the floor better.”
The fans got to see a glimpse of that running game during the Slinger’s first game in the Merlion Cup highlighted by multiple dunks from both Wright and Alexander. Hopefully this additional exciting brand of basketball will expand the Singapore Slinger’s fanbase even more.
“I hope that they were excited to watch me,” Wright says. “I want to try to bring an exciting style of basketball to Singapore. As you saw today, I was playing above the rim and I got a few dunks so I just want to try to be exciting.”
“Hopefully the fans will enjoy it and come watch the games more.”