It’s actually seems a bit unfair to the Malaysians about all the buzz every other nation is getting concerning ASEAN Basketball and it’s rise.News outlets talk about how the ASEAN region is getting better in terms of basketball and referring to how the Philippines beat Thailand and Indonesia by only 5 and 8 points, respectively, in the last SEA Games. Singapore keeps getting thrown into the mix about how good the Singapore Slingers have gotten with their core of local players.
Regularly lost in the conversation is Malaysia.
That is actually strange, considering how Malaysia are the only Nation other than the Philippines to have won in a SEA Games or SEABA Championship tournament. Even more than that, the representative of Malaysia in the ASEAN Basketball League, the KL Dragons, had just recently won the title.
The talent and the legacy is there, but all they need now is someone to kickstart it up again.
Let’s break the team down:
Goh Cheng Huat
I have to admit to you that I have never seen a team ran by Coach Goh and really looking forward to see him run a team here. Coach Goh will be returning to this position after coaching the National team from 2009-2011, according to The Star. He will be replacing Paul Advincula, a Filipino head coach, whose wasn’t able to lead the National team to their desired success in recent tourneys.
Coach Goh was also the Head Coach of the aforementioned, KL Dragons, for the first two seasons of the ASEAN Basketball League, before stepping back to a part of the coaching staff in succeeding seasons.
Again, I have no idea whatsoever about his coaching style, but the dude’s a 61-year-old coach with plenty of experience coaching Malaysian players. I think he knows what he’s doing.
Chee Huei Liaw
Chee Kheun Ma
Cheng Wah Chin
Hong Hoong Gan
Kok Hou Teo
Lok Seng Mak
Tian Yuan Kuek
Wei Hong Choo
Wei Yong Ong
Yi Hou Wong
Yoong Jing Kwaan
Because I only know so much about the Malaysian National Team, I’ll just be mentioning those that I know and go from there.
Among the players who I am most familiar with are obviously the KL Dragons gang, which I have seen throughout the ABL season. Most notably in this group should be Tian Yuan Kuek. The super long forward has a nice inside outside game with range all the way out to the three point line (25% 3P in ABL Season 6).
Kuek is freakishly long and can get up off the ground. Combine that with the fact that he runs really well on the fast break, and he can be a terror in the open court.
He still has some trouble creating off the dribble and seems more comfortable being the facilitator, so he might not be used as Malaysia’s primary offensive go-to option. However, I some times wonder what might happen should he adopt that mindset and start taking things into his own hands. On defense, Kuek uses his long arms to be disruptive in the passing lanes and to bother shot attempts well. He has trouble keeping those long limbs in check sometimes, and will run into foul trouble frequently.
Kuek is a veteran on the National Team and he was on the Malaysian SEABA Stankovic Squad in Chiangmai, Thailand 4 years ago.
Another vet on that team was Kwaan Yoong Jing, who is also back on this Malaysia National Team squad as well. Yoong Jing’s role on the Dragons is lesser than that of Tian Yuan’s (only 7.4 mpg) but he’s usually more active in the National Team. As a center, Yoong Jing also has a nifty baseline shot he can go to. His offense is limited and his defense isn’t eye-popping, but his veteran leadership and size will work for Malaysia down low.
Another veteran is Wei Hong Choo, who is also another long forward. He had a brief moment during his first season as a KL Dragons last year where he was among the starting five, but Tian Yuan reclaimed the spot later in the season. I’ll need to see more than his 6.6 minutes per game in the ABL to say anything more about him.
Ivan Yeo was also on the Stankovic Cup team in Chiangmai 4 years ago as a wide-eyed 19 year old who rarely played. He then suddenly burst onto my radar when he posted absurd numbers in the SEABA Championship in 2015 (12.5 points and 14.8 rebounds) and FIBA Asia 2015 (13 points and 9.7 rebonds). I looked forward to see him play in the SEA Games and he impressed by leading the Malaysia NT in points (9.8 ppg) and second in rebounds (4.5 rpg). I had expected big things for him to come in the ABL…but it just never came. Yeo seemed rattled and lacked confidence in the ABL, and it was pretty visible. He logged even less minutes than Wei Hong Choo. In this national team squad, Yeo should be pushed back into the primary school role and maybe that can spark some confidence back into him.
Someone who has had their confidence sparked is Chee Kheun Ma. After suffering a mid season injury, Chee Kheun came back and became a game changer in the second game of the ABL Finals. He was also coming off his first cap as a National Team player in the SEA Games where he was the team’s second leading scorer at 7.5 points per game. Ma is listed as a point guard, but he plays more like a scoring guard. He has decent instincts scoring the ball, but his passing is on and off which why he might have thrived playing along side true point guards like Tong Wen Keong and Jason Brickman. Malaysia’s success in this tournament may very well lie in how good Chee Kheun can lead this team with the ball in his hands.
Finally, the X-Factor on this Malaysia National Team: Yi Hou Wong. Like Chee Kheun, this is Yi Hou’s first stint with the Senior National Team. He had a good run with U18 team in 2014 (12.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 40% 3P) enough that it got him a spot in the KL Dragons roster in the same year. Yi Hou wouldn’t have much of an impact on the team until his second year. His minuted dwindled down to 10.0 minutes at the end of the season, but he was still a decent sharpshooter at 39.2% 3P with this year’s ABL Championship squad. Aside from being a good shooter, Yi Hou also is light on his feet and quick so he can make drives towards the basket and draw fouls. His length causes troubles on defense and his tendency to get tangled up can really get into your head.
Singapore star, Wong Wei Long, got Yi Hou so deep in his head that despite a getting a win over Yi Hou’s team early in the ABL Season, he couldn’t help but retaliate a bit (Watch the clip at the 2:08:11 mark).
That’s pretty much what is known about the Malaysian National Team.
I’ve heard from some that Hong Hoong Gan is a pretty good player himself and has been with the NT for a while, but until I actually get to watch him play, my opinions are going to be set on the side.
This team is going to be long, that’s for sure. While they may not be physical down low, they will find a way too shoot over the defense. I wouldn’t be too afraid of Malaysia from the three point territory where they shot only 19.6% during SEA Games with a similar squad. Adding Yi Hou is a nice start to spread the floor but it’s still a long way to go. Had Loh Shee Fai (27-52 from three in ABL) completed his rehab, this Malaysia team would be a whole lot scarier.
The point guard situation is a bit hard to imagine right now. I’ve only seen Malaysia with Tong Wen Keong (4.3 apg, 32.7 AST% in SEA Games) leading the helms for the National Team, but he is also recovering from an injury. It would have been a fairy tale story had Ooi Ban Sin stepped out of retirement and came back to lead this young squad, but I guess he needs the rest. In the end, we’re going to be left with Chee Kheun Ma who is finally going to show us how he plays in this new role.
Malaysia is one of the stronger teams assembled relative to their talent pool, so this is no rebuilding process. Coach Goh wants to start his second reign on a high note and if he can sneak into the top two, it would be a huge start.
And maybe people will finally start talking about Malaysia Basketball once again.
BEST CASE SCENARIO:
Kuek and the Malaysia National Team are sitting in the stands. They will be the spectators for this game.
Their sweat has dried up after a hardfought rivalry game against Singapore. Kuek did a good job and hit a couple of big threes down the stretch to seal the victory. They had completed all of their elimination round games with a 3-1 record. The Philippines hit them hard in their first game, but everyone stayed calm and routed out the rest of them games.
Kuek still can help but chuckle as he thinks back to the game against Thailand. He smirks at how their defense got into the opposing team’s heads and got them into foul trouble early. Oh yes, that was a good day. It’s always fun beating the home team.
Now that their job was done, all they would need is for the Philippines to beat Thailand in the final game of the elimination round. Still complete in their Malaysia National Team gear, they approached the Filipino fan base and cheered their hearts out. Sure, they would be playing against the Philippines in the Finals, but their ticket to the FIBA Asia Challenge was on the line.
Kuek cheered hard as the Philippines made a run early in the 4th quarter to break away and secure their victory. He made eye contact with Coach Goh, who was watching the game from afar, and nodded. They had done it.
They had qualified for the FIBA Asia Challenge.
WORST CASE SCENARIO:
Yi Hou lets loose another three nearing the end of the fourth quarter of Malaysia’s last game against Singapore. They had struggled hardly enough to beat Indonesia the other day for their first win and here they were down against Singapore.
It didn’t really matter much at this point. The tickets to FIBA Asia Challenge were sealed by Thailand and the Philippines already. But it was this game against Singapore, the Causeway Rivalry, that Malaysia felt they should at least take home.
Yi Hou’s shot clanks off the rim. Singapore ends up with the rebounds and Qin Huang speeds the ball up forward. He stops for the trailer break and finds Delvin Goh trucking down the lane. With a nice bounce pass, Qin Huang finds Goh is stride. Before Kuek could react, Goh leaps and flushes the dunk down. The crowd (however small it might be for Singapore vs Malaysia game in Thailand) goes wild.
The dunk would put Singapore’s lead up to 11 and that would be it for Malaysia.
- How fun would this team have been with a 100% Tong Wen Keong and 100% Loh Shee Fai? I’d totally buy stock for that team.
- The Malaysian National Football Team is usually referred to as the “Yelow Tigers”, and I’m just waiting here until someone decides that it might be cool to design their basketball jerseys in tiger skin print. I’m not saying it’s a good idea, I’m just saying it would be entertaining to see.
Check out the other team previews here: