Meet the Stars 2021: Women’s Basketball

The hours spent in training, the blood, sweat and tears shed, were all for this moment to shine brightly in achieving their dreams in sports. Thus, Echo proudly presents, “Meet the Stars”, encapsulating the journey of Sunway’s Sports Scholars who have rewritten history and made their dreams come true. 

The same goes for basketball players, the court is their stage. These basketball scholars have put in their all just to glow on court, being in the limelight while shooting hoops. With their every dribble, every shot, they have left a legacy. 

So, head over to Sunway’s basketball court (provided the pandemic is over), to cheer for our local uprising MVPs.

Tan Lai Toong

Meet Selangor State women’s basketball player, Tan Lai Toong. A 19-year-old from Puchong, who joined Sunway in August for a degree in Psychology. During the interview, Lai Toong recalls that she started basketball at the age of 10, 12 being the year she got selected. The happiness, team spirit and fun, yet exhilarating experience, got her into basketball. At the age of 13, she claimed her position as centre and at 14 years old; she has been a Shooting Guard or Small Forward. Her goals in the sports career are to gain more experience and knowledge as well as participate in the Sea Games. 

Tan Lai Toong, 19, her favourite jersey number is 6 because of her birthdate (6th February)

The largest competitions Lai Toong has participated in so far are the FIBA U16 WOMEN’S ASIAN CHAMPIONSHIP in 2017  and FIBA U18 WOMEN’S ASIAN CHAMPIONSHIP in 2018. These proved to put her in encounters she was more than ready to face. First up, working with different coaches since coaches change as one rises to the top, she has learned that it is important to know what the coaches want, and understand why they expect so. Although this requires a lot of courage to step up and ask, it is still vital for success. Secondly, injuries are common and learning to be patient and calmly waiting for rehabilitation is not a simple task. Fortunately, she found a solution, which was staying positive and anticipating an even bigger growth after recovery. The third struggle she faced was transportation issues. These issues are common since most athletes have not reached the age to have a driver’s license. So, she learned to speak up and ask her friends, coach and teammates to drive her to practices, knowing that they are always there to support her along her journey to victory. 

Lai Toong in one of her tournaments. Though looking cool, there are still challenges she has to face. 

It’s also true that even for athletes like Lai Toong, pangs of anxiousness do come before tournaments. However, she found that preparing her thoughts before the tournament helped her to have a positive mindset before going into battle. Another key factor to her persisting in tournaments is her role model Kobe Bryant, who inspires her with his story of perseverance. 

To all aspiring athletes out there, Lai Toong’s advice is: “Do not give up, there’s no such thing as smooth sailing in sports. Losing games, being eliminated, injuries and so on are always possible. That is just a process. Don’t be afraid to work hard. I know that the training might be tough and tiring, but you have to stick to it. Nothing worth having comes easy.”

Samantha Mah Xiao Xuan

The next star wowing the crowd is Samantha, a 20 year old fellow Sabahan, and booming from the Sabah State Women’s Basketball Team playing the Centre position. Her basketball journey started at 9 years old when she got picked by her PE teacher to join the basketball team, thanks to her being tall. One led to another and she was selected to enter the state tournament team when she was only 15 years old. 

Samantha Mah Xiao Xuan, tall being her strengths (174m). She likes Muay Thai and CrossFit (weight-lifting) too.

Being tall may be an added advantage for Samantha, but it isn’t enough to get her through the trials of the court. Nevertheless, motivation came from many springs for Samantha. She had support from her amazing coaches and one of a kind teammates. Knowing that there are people supporting her, this motivates her to strive to become an even better athlete. Her motivation and passion for basketball burned even more when she joined the 2019 Open Cup. For that specific game, university students from Taiwan were invited to compete with them and this was an eye-opening experience for her. Seeing so many fiery players and experienced coaches fueled her to kick down all barriers and drive her way to success. 

She also wanted to share what she has learned from basketball. Through her journey, she realized the importance of having proper discipline and time management, all of which are vital in her life, especially having to juggle between basketball and academics. In short, it is her passion for sports that continues to drive her to reach greater heights, which is why she is often seen training her heart out. Despite all these MCO restrictions, Samantha can still find solace in the “padang” or field (in Malay) near her home by running and training every day. She even has a gym at home where she trains with her family who loves sports as much as her. Fun fact, her mom is a boxing coach while her brother also loves playing basketball (and is much taller than her!).

Getting through all these qualms and scores that make and break people, Samantha always reminds herself of her favorite quote: “Do what you love and what makes you happy.” Her life without basketball would be unimaginable, as Samantha had her entire childhood revolving around sports. By doing what she loves, Samantha can get up every morning to train for sports and improve herself. With that, pridefully wishing her all the best for finishing Foundation in Arts in Sunway, advancing to her degree and basketball endeavours.

All the best!

Sany Tan Suet Nie

Further down the court, flexing her amazing snatches and passes is Sany, also 20 years old and playing for women’s basketball at State Level for Terengganu. 

Passionate Sany on the basketball court

Recently being awarded a Sunway Sports Scholarship, Sany is currently studying a degree in Accounting and Finance at Sunway. Having started basketball at the ripe age of 9 years old, she reminisced that many people were interested in basketball, so she joined in with an eager spirit to learn and have fun as well. At 13 years old, she was chosen to represent the Terengganu team. Her position is the controller who passes the ball to the right person at the right time in order to facilitate a score. 

Her basketball journey reached its peak when she was awarded champion representing Sunway in 2019 MASISWA competition. Although the opponents were strong (from TAR UC), the win was quite unprecedented for Sany because it seemed impossible to beat such formidable foes. Nevertheless, it jump started her hopes of rising in the game of basketball even higher. Sany believes the reason they won was because they never gave up and despite the odds, they decided not to let their nerves get the best of them, choosing to play naturally and rely on their good defence. 

The best moment for Sany when she and her team won 2019 MASISWA competition

Sany also added that she was so surprised as well when she got the position of MVP (most valuable player) during that game,proudly including that she wouldn’t have made the position without the help of her militarily ready teammates and leading coaches. 

With that achievement, her ambition now, despite the neverending MCO, was to train hard enough to enter the national basketball team. Her Sunway Sport Scholarship also motivates her to strive for this goal to make the Sunway team proud. Hence, to show her gratitude towards this scholarship, she promises to train hard and give it her all to get another championship for the Sunway team! 

However, Sany still faces obstacles in her journey. According to her, her biggest challenge still lies in feeling very tired after training so hard only to end up not getting what she expected, as if maybe it’s better giving up on everything. Despite having such days when she’s down, she reminds herself not to give up, keep training and try her best to achieve her expectation because basketball still remains at the top of her list of things that make her happy. Nothing can stop her from experiencing the happiness basketball offers her.

Mental preparation is also very important to her, especially before a game. Sany attempts to talk to her teammates and coaches to motivate them and regain the fighting spirit before every match. From being an athlete, learning to juggle her school life was one of the few important skills that she upholds. By listing down a timetable of when to train and when to study, she makes sure that she studies at least 2 hours after training to keep up with both aspects of her life, sports and studies. 

A word of advice from her to everyone (and her past self), “Do not give up easily. Just put in all your effort and try your best to do the things you like. Do not listen to what others talk about you. Prove yourself to others.”

What an iron lady she is! 

Wong Tze Xin

The final leading figure is none other than Wong Tze Xin, a Selangor State basketball player who is also the President of Sunway Female basketball club for the term 2020 and 2021. Studying a bachelors in Marketing, Tze Xin started basketball at 10 years old when she decided to join the basketball team which changed her life. Gradually she climbed up the ranks and finally got the chance to represent Selangor at the age of 12. Her position in a team has always been point guard or shooting guard as these positions allow her to use her strengths such as speed and accurate shooting abilities.

With her portfolio, it’s undeniable that she’s a star on the basketball court!  Her various achievements include winning champion in the 2019 Sukma games, being crowned MVP (most valuable player) and winning finals in UBL(University Basketball League) competition,  winning UBL champions, winning MASISWA 2018 and 2019 champion when representing Team Sunway, as well as 2nd runner up in ASEAN University Games when representing Team Malaysia. What an astonishing portfolio!

Truth be told, with all her victories, it was hard for her to pick her highest achievement as all her victories meant a lot and are wonderful memories to her. Hence, all the hard and tough training become worth it when met with the face of victory.

Besides, her source of success includes the rich community of coaches and teammates that supported her throughout both winning and losing. It is also thanks to her strengths of being open to criticism that allowed her to become the successful athlete she is today. Because she saw those criticisms as opportunities to improve, she has not given up on being the best at what she loves. She also has good self discipline which pushes her to remain consistent in her training; so that she may bear awarding fruits in the years to come. Lastly, she is grateful for having the ability to stand up when faced with setbacks which helped her grow into a stronger person. And from these setbacks, it is important to learn from it and never to repeat them again.

Some memorable quotes from her would be, “Never give up because great things take time” and “Treat every training or competition as if it’s your last, and learn to appreciate it.”

Koo Hui Qi

It wasn’t unnatural for Hui Qi to have a passion for basketball since her family loves sports. Her dad was a basketball player and her sister also was a recipient of the Sunway Sports Scholarship. Having the same love for basketball running in her veins, Hui Qi decided to follow in her older sister’s footsteps and became a Selangor State basketball player, making basketball a part of her lifestyle. 

Basketball means the world to Hui Qi as it offers her something special. By playing basketball, she was able to form genuine friendships with her teammates. As a bonus, she even got the golden opportunity to travel for tournaments. Sadly the recent MCO changed her method of training as she was restricted from training with her teammates and forced to train individually at home. She reminisces about the good old times when she played matches with her teammates, missing being with her teammates. Fun fact, the last time she practised as a team was about a year ago in August 2020!  

However, this did not stop Hui Qi from her training as she continues her workout routine consistently while finding joy in the littlest of things, not letting the pandemic bring her down. Using her words, working out keeps her going and keeps her sane from being stuck at home for so long. 

When asked for her strengths, it would be one word, “hardworking”. All of Hui Qi’s success was due to the effort she has put in training because she admits humbly that she isn’t the best player and isn’t the most talented, but her determination to rise up is what made her shine on court. With that, she keeps a positive mindset when training so that she can catch up with her peers.

Her success is all thanks to her hard work

Ladies and Gentlemen, what an aspiring league of young and mighty ladies we have here, with the abilities to basket their fears when faced with adversity and being able to make opponents believe they never stood a chance; the winner is not the one who never misses their shot, but the winner is the one who shoots with conviction even at the very last second. To the Sunway women’s basketball team, hope to see the team slam dunking their way to success! 

Stay tuned to meet more sports stars coming up! 

Written by: Twis & Maki

Edited by: Jamie

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