Basketballer Shukri stars for Dunman Secondary
Dunman standout Shukri switches from football to hoops after sibling's urging
Like many Singaporean youngsters, Mohamad Shukri Manaf was very much into football as a seven-year-old.
But his older brother, Khairul Ridzuan, 20, urged him to follow in his footsteps by swopping his football boots for Air Jordans.
Two years later, Shukri, 17, started playing competitive basketball for his primary school and, pretty soon, his coach was telling him not to waste his talent.
He has not looked back since.
Yesterday, the captain of Dunman Secondary School's B Division basketball team was in fine form as his team clinched their fifth consecutive East Zone title.
They defeated Bedok Green Secondary School 59-27 in the final at Anglican High School.
"We're obviously going to enjoy it," said forward Shukri, whose parents were among the raucous Dunman supporters.
"Most of us are in our last year, and more than half the team are playing their last game in the East Zone. It's a very emotional moment for me and the team."
The Tampines-based school started their title defence well, with Shukri particularly clinical.
By the end of the first quarter, the Sec 5 student had already sunk 10 points, equivalent to what the entire Bedok Green team had managed. He finished with a game-high 18 points.
If the opening exchanges were about Dunman's offence, the second quarter was all about their defence.
The defending champions were well-organised at the back to restrict their opponents to only two more points before half-time.
"We played very well; the communication and team effort were there," Shukri said.
"But the second half was a bit of a let-down."
A combination of uncharacteristic errors, together with Bedok Green's renewed energy on offence, saw the latter notch 15 points after the break.
But Dunman proved too strong on offence and eventually came away with a comfortable victory.
With the zonal title in the bag, Dunman teacher Danny Wong is already setting his sights on defending their national title, with the preliminary round slated to start later this month.
"The important part now is the preparation during this period when we are waiting for the nationals to begin," he told The New Paper.
"The top 16 teams are competitive, so the level will be higher and the pace (of the competition) is something we are concerned with.
"We are expecting back-to-back matches or even three matches in a week; things we don't experience (at zonal level). So, it's very important to keep them fit and healthy."
Shukri also warned of the step-up in class, noting that Anglo-Chinese School (Barker), North Vista and Jurong "are the teams we have to look out for".
"It's good to aim high," Wong added.
"Of course, we will take things one step at a time. Our aim is to see if we can get past the first round and then target the top four.
"From past experience, all the teams in the top four will be tough.
"So we'll see who can perform then."
The national final is expected to take place in the middle of next month at Jurong East Sports Hall.