SINGAPORE – The ASEAN Basketball League has been through a lot from season one to the upcoming ninth season — as has Desmond Oh, who has never missed suiting up for an ABL season. Plenty has changed from the addition of expansion teams to reaching further out of the region to teams in East Asia. Star players have come and go, leaving their legacy for the next generation to admire.
One man has seen all of this go down from on the hardwood, from the very first game and will continue to do so for at least one more season: Desmond Oh of the Singapore Slingers.
“I have been playing this league since day one,” Oh says. “This league has grown so much from a six-team league to a ten-team league. Now it is more competitive.”
Eight seasons. 174 games. 2781 minutes. And counting. Desmond Oh has been around to see everything go down in the ABL and he’s committed for one more go with his beloved Singapore Slingers. The 5’10” guard has stuck with the team through it’s highs (reaching back-to-back ABL Finals) and lows (a 7-15 season for 5th place). He’s never been physically imposing and is always one of the smaller guys on the court at all times. Combined with the fact that his primary role is being a lock down defender, Oh’s body and mind has logged plenty of mileage over the years battling in the ABL scene.
“Des was actually contemplating retirement at the end of the 2017-18 ABL season but he informed us at our end of season exit meetings of his desire to play one more season,” Michael Johnson, General Manager of the Singapore Slingers, says about re-signing Oh for another season. “Desmond has always shown great loyalty to the Slingers organisation and we are repaying that loyalty with a new contract. He has been a team player on the court and he has done a lot of work in the community for the Slingers in his eight seasons.”
Oh is a family man and you can regularly see his young son attending his home games, watching his father play and waiting for the final buzzer. You can feel how much he values his close relationships and that is the core mindset that makes him so valuable to the Slingers. Even as Oh’s minutes decline as the younger Slingers players get more shine, you can still feel his presence and his impact whether it is during huddles or cheering for his team from the bench.
“I will still do whatever I can for the team, be it on or off the court,” Oh says of the role his expected of next season. “On the court, I will play with heart and soul. Off the court, I will pull the team together like a family.”
“Desmond’s game will never blow you away statistically,” Johnson says of his seasoned vet who has career averages of 3.4 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 1.0 assosts per game. “But he has many intangibles that are valuable to a team both on and off the court and he has meant a lot to our organisation. We hope to keep Desmond around the program in some capacity for many years to come.”
This offseason has seen Mario Wuysang, one of the greatest players in the Southeast Asian region, retire. Wuysang has seen countless battles against Oh whether it is in the ABL or during National team duties. With much respect towards Wuysang, Oh has done just as much for the basketball scene in Singapore and will continue to do so in this upcoming season as the Singapore Slingers aim towards another deep playoff run.
“Mario is one of the best point guard in the region,” Oh says of Wuysang. “I respect him so much. He is just like a big brother who is humble and cares for people.”
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“Desmond has proudly represented Singapore, playing on the Singapore National team over a span of 17 years,” Johnson says. “With such commitment to the sport and Singapore, he deserves everyone’s respect and gratitude for his serve.”
Will the ABL 2018-2019 be the last season for Desmond Oh? We can’t be sure about that for now, but we can be sure that Oh will be giving it his all for the Slingers.
“I have to see my body condition to see how much longer I can play,” Oh says of how much longer he expects to play. “I love playing basketball and I am doing what I love.”