Singapore Slingers need their three foreign stars to shine to keep ABL Finals dream alive
They have been crucial in the Singapore Slingers' historic run to the Asean Basketball League (ABL) finals, but the imports failed to light up in Game 3, which the Westports Malaysia Dragons won 90-72 to stand one victory away from the championship. TNP finds out how the three foreign stars of the Slingers can bounce back in the make-or-break Game 4 today
1. JUSTIN HOWARD (NO.55)
It is hard to avoid being noticed when you are a 2.11m, 118kg basketballer.
It means there's nowhere to hide after scoring just five points, when your average for the season is 20.4 points per game.
Centre Justin Howard knows he flopped big time in Game 3 on Friday, and the 33-year-old American says he will do the necessary to improve for today's must-win encounter at the OCBC Arena Hall 2.
He said: "It's all on me, I let the team down. There's no choice now. It's do or die, win or go home. We know what we are capable of and we are going to give everything we got to make it to Game 5."
The Orlando-native is unusually adept at mid-range shooting, something he puts down to a "soft touch and hard work".
"I wasn't always the tallest so I had to have other (standout) aspects of my game," said Howard.
"I have a lot of friends who are in the NBA that are living in Orlando, and they're guards. I work out with them, so working out with guards, you're going to shoot more."
2. XAVIER ALEXANDER (NO. 15)
He sees plays others don't, controls the front and back court playing positions one-to-five, and gets into his teammates' minds to push them.
Perhaps it is apt that swingman Xavier Alexander is nicknamed Professor X.
His importance to the team is not just reflected in his impressive average of 19 points, 10 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game this season.
When they won Game 1, Alexander was the all-rounder with 27 points (on an impressive 73.3 field-goal percentage), 15 rebounds, nine assists and five steals.
In Game 3, even with Howard's cold shooting, the Slingers were behind by just six points when Alexander fouled out with about six minutes left in the final quarter.
Without their talisman, the hosts collapsed as the Dragons went on a 21-9 run to close out the game.
Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang said: "Foul trouble happens, but if X can stay out of that, we will be fine.
"We need everyone to stay on and have a good game at both ends of the court. X is well capable of that and I need him to attack the basket more."
Alexander featured in the NBA Development League for the Tulsa 66ers.
With his experience, the 27-year-old American has adopted a mentor-like figure in the squad, often giving teammates advice on how to improve their game.
3. KRIS ROSALES (NO.11)
He will return to the Philippines in search of greener pastures next season, but Kris Rosales wants to end his stint in Singapore on a high.
The 25-year-old Filipino-American point guard, who participated in workouts with NBA teams like the Brooklyn Nets and LA Clippers, is set for a move to the Philippine Basketball Association, Asia's first professional basketball league and the world's second-oldest, after the NBA.
Rosales, who should be headed for Tropang TNT, on of 12 teams in the PBA, said: "Right now, I'm just really staying focused, enjoying each and every day I have with the team and everyone else that I know here."
While his numbers are not as impressive as the Americans, Rosales, who is 1.83m and weighs 75kg, has been the most consistent player on the Slingers roster, averaging 10.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and three assists per game.
In Game 1 of the finals, he restricted the Dragons' ABL MVP (Asean heritage) Matthew Wright to just two points in the second half.
Neo said: "I'm happy with the good job Kris has been doing in defence, and I want more of the same in Game 4.
"He can still do more in offence in terms of tidying up and organising the team."