Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cagers counting on debutant Tian Yuen to meet tall order

PETALING JAYA: The national cagers have a tall order to meet in Jakarta, but then they have the towering Kuek Tian Yuen to reach for the silver – all two metres of him.

The 20-year-old Tian Yuen is the baby of the men’s basketball team comprising experienced players such as B. Guganeswaran, K. Satyaseelan and Ooi Ban Sin.

But the Segamat-born Tian Yuen stands head and shoulders above the rest and is the ace in the Malaysian pack. A place in the final is, however, not a slam dunk away as Malaysia have a poor record in the Games.
Traditional powerhouses the Philippines have long dominated the sport and Malaysia’s only gold came at KL 1989. That means it will be a real stretch meeting their silver target.

Still, they have been fortunate not to draw the Filipinos in the group stages and have a shot at making the semi-finals at least. Their opening match is against Singapore tomorrow in Group B which also has Myanmar and hosts Indonesia.

The Philippines are drawn in Group A with Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.
“We have to beat Singapore and Myanmar to make the semis,” said Tian Yuen. “It’s as simple as that.”
The young cager only took to the game six years ago on entering high school.

“I was always the tallest kid on the block so it was only natural that I took to basketball,” said Tian Yuen, who was introduced to the hoops by a friend.

“It was a little awkward at first but it soon became quite natural as my height gave me a distinct advantage. It wasn’t long before I was called up at State level.

“Although I’ve had some experience with the national team, this will be my first SEA Games. It will be a whole new experience and I’m looking forward to it.”

Tian Yuen was a member of the Malaysian team who finished 11th in the Asian Championships and played for the Westport KL Dragons in the Asean Basketball League (ABL) this year.

National head coach Goh Cheng Huat is adopting a more pragmatic approach despite the Malaysia Basketball Association’s silver imperative.
“Silver is a good target, but my immediate priority is to beat Singapore in our opening match,” said Cheng Huat. “Our chances of qualifying for the semi-finals are as good as over if we don’t win.”

Malaysia earned a bronze the last time out in Korat 2007. Basketball did not feature in Laos 2009.


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