Xavier Alexander has been in the ASEAN Basketball League long enough to know that getting into the Finals is one thing, but winning the title is a different challenge altogether.
As the Singapore Slingers prepare for the ABL Finals against the BTN CLS Knights Indonesia, the player known as the X-Man is hoping that this will be the year that he’ll finally become a champion.
“This is my third (finals) out of four (seasons),” Alexander said. “I’ve lost two, so I’m looking forward to going back to the Finals and getting me one now.
In the X-Man’s first year for the Slingers in the 2015-2016 season, he led his team to the ABL Finals against the Westports Malaysia Dragons. The series went on to five excruciating games and the Dragons were the ones who came out victorious.
The following year, the Slingers faced the then-newcomers Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions. Redemption was not on the Slingers’ side as they were defeated in heartbreaking fashion, losing in double overtime at home in Game 4 of that series.
But with losing, also comes learning. Despite two unsuccessful trips to the Finals, Alexander has grown as a player.
“I felt like I was younger. I was 27, 28 then and I feel like I was young then,” he shared. “So I just feel like I got smarter, and got more mature. I feel like my team has as well. So hopefully, we’re looking to get us one.”
When Alexander first came into the league in 2015, he immediately flashed his uncanny athleticism. He was freight train on the open floor and garnered a reputation as a player who can finish with a flurry. On the defensive end, he was just as tenacious, usually guarding the opposition’s best player. With four seasons under his belt, he remains aggressive and athletic as before. However, he has also learned to shift gears and know when to take his time.
“Just patience, man. Everything doesn’t have to be forced,” he said on the things he learned while also mentioning that conditioning the body for a five-game series will be critical.
This year, Alexander has constantly been putting up stellar numbers across the board. He had averages of 21.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, and a personal best 7.7 assists – a testament to his development as a playmaker. Not to mention, he also has a vastly improved jumper from the outside with a career-high 33 percent shooting from beyond the arc. He also earned the distinction of having the most number of triple-doubles in league history with seven for his career.
Alexander’s ballhandling was put to the test this season as he was asked to run point on a number of occasions.
“Playing point guard has really put my head around just trying to do everything for my team,” he quipped. “No matter what that means. If it’s rebounding, or passing the ball, or scoring.”
“I just try to keep going. And I try to continue to play hard, trying to do whatever it takes for my team to win games,” he went on.
More than the improvement of his game, it’s Alexander’s leadership that has taken the Slingers back to the Finals.
“At first, I was a little bit stagnant. I had older players in my team like Justin Howard, he said, as he and Howard were at the forefront of the Slingers’ two Finals runs. “He kinda raised me in this game and kinda showed me when to take over and now I’m doing it. I just try to be a leader for this team.”
Alexander was a young and wild spirit in his early years in the league, including the two Finals appearances. With more experience and improvements to his overall game, he’s now ready to lead Singapore to its first ABL title.