UNKNOWN to many, Malaysia started its campaign in the Fiba-Asia championships still in shock over the death of one of its top players.
Jacky Ng Kiat Kee, a 25-year-old mainstay of its national team, died of a suspected heart attack while sitting on the bench in an invitational tournament in China just days before the Manila showpiece.
Team manager Paul Advincula said the Malaysians are trying their best to play well in the championships without Ng, a power forward and one of the key players of the squad.
“He is one of our key players, tall players,” said Advincula, a Filipino, after the Malaysian's 25-115 loss to Iran on opening-day on Thursday. “We just dedicated that game and hopefully play good.”
“I would say that he is a nice boy who is just in his tender age. Then, all of a sudden, he was taken from us,” added Advincula.
Ironically, Malaysia has found itself in the so-called 'Group of Death' of the biennial tournament with regional powers Iran, China and South Korea.
Iran head coach Mehmed Becirovic credited Malaysia for playing well under the circumstances.
“Thank you to the team of Malaysia. I know the tragedy that happened to the team and still play at this level. They played fair game,” said Becirovic.
Advincula said this Malaysian team is very different from squad that saw action in the 2011 campaign in Wuhan, with only two Asean Basketball League veterans in Ban Sin Ooi and Tian Yuan Kuek.
“Ten players are playing for Fiba-Asia for the first time. The team is composed of young players. It’s quite a learning experience as you can see, we are in the death group,” Advincula said.
"I just told the boys to just play your hearts out and show that you know how to play basketball."