Meet The Stars 2021: Basketball & Volleyball

Hello 2022 and a warm welcome back to Echo’s dear readers! 

For the first article of the year, Echo returns with another edition of Meet The Stars, proudly presenting five ball sport athletes in volleyball and basketball. In the spirit of fresh starts, manifestations, and new year resolutions, let’s kick off this year with inspiring insights on how fellow students are progressing as promising young athletes, who represent their schools and states, reach exciting heights, and of course, make the best out of life’s lemons. 

Lee Shu Xian – Volleyball 

Meet Lee Shu Xian, a 20-year-old volleyball player and Accounting & Finance student, who was attracted by the sports scholarship that Sunway offered in addition to knowing multiple seniors who were already playing volleyball at Sunway. Shu Xian’s first encounters with volleyball began unexpectedly. In Standard 4, one of her P.E. coaches took notice of her due to her advantage in height and asked her to try out for the school’s volleyball club, which, up until that point, Shu Xian hadn’t even known existed. All the same, she approached this new opportunity with intrigue and optimism and started competing within a year. Not long after, this volleyball talent would go on to represent Selangor in Standard 6, at the age of 12. 

The volleyballer cites her highest achievement to be her pre-Sukma (Sukan Malaysia) participation, albeit the 20th Sukma Games had to be postponed due to the restriction of the MCO. Despite this incredible feat, one particular event that prevails as Shu Xian’s most impactful memory is an U14 competition when she was in Form 2, during which her team lost to a Johor team in the preliminaries but later won against them in the finals. Facing initial defeat along with the fact that one of her teammates chipped her tooth during this competition, the team overcame and learnt a lot. A major takeaway for Shu Xian was that just because one may lose at some point, that doesn’t mean one will continue losing. Moreover, this turnaround fueled a mindset of perseverance that is necessary in the field of competitive sports. In the end, Shu Xian was even awarded Best Receiver! Indeed, it was an impactful memory of great highs and lows. 

The frequency of her practice sessions varies according to the season but, typically, she practices 2-3 times a week, while training seasons during competition seasons would require more frequent and intense sessions. It is especially tough when she has a competition right before an exam, which she experienced once when she had an out-of-state competition the day before her SPM trials. When it comes to managing her academics and competitions, she would often go to the library to study during recess or pursue after-school tuition. Her schedule is thus quite packed but she doesn’t mind because she considers the time that she plays volleyball to be an activity that helps her de-stress. Managing her time between studies and sports is therefore about managing her priorities, too. As a testament to her dedication, she would bring her textbooks to competitions and study together with fellow players at the end of training. 

In her journey towards becoming the volleyball star she is today, Shu Xian champions two particular people throughout her career whom she looks up to as role models. The first is her personal coach, who has trained her since primary school through secondary school and until state levels. She views him as a role model because not only is he very skillful but he also advocates for developing a healthy mindset in all aspects of the sport. It is just as important to have the right attitude to perform well in competitions. To quote her coach, “If the competition hasn’t begun and you are afraid, you’ve already lost by 50%.” Thus, he teaches that no matter how strong one’s opponent is, one should never underestimate oneself (nor overestimate oneself, lest one fails to take the competition seriously). Among the many coaches Shu Xian has met, who range from fierce to lenient, she believes her personal coach has demonstrated a good balance between the two extremes, knowing exactly when is necessary to exude either. Aside from that, he has a sense of humour, which ultimately makes him come across as a friend, rather than just a mentor. 

The second person Shu Xian looks up to as a role model is a fellow young athlete, who is also her favourite captain and a best friend: Malaysian beach volleyballer Tasha Mae. Shu Xian admires Tasha’s leadership qualities, her attitude, her academic grades, her musical talent – she is an all-rounder. Having grown up in the same team since primary school, Shu Xian has had the pride of watching her childhood friend excel in various areas and especially as a prominent name in the volleyball field, all the while remaining a humble figure who actively shows an interest in life-long learning and self-improvement. The two lean on each other through tough times. Shu Xian is grateful for Tasha as well as the many people who guide and support her throughout her journey. 

Volleyball as a sport has taught Shu Xian many skills applicable to her life, the biggest of which are successful teamwork and mindset. As a team sport, volleyball requires strong chemistry and connection between teammates. Shu Xian has heard stories of unpleasant atmospheres, arguments, and drama occurring between teams but, thankfully, has never experienced any serious fallouts with her own teammates, whom she believes each upholds responsibility for themselves and for their team. They know that they shouldn’t blame others but, instead, step in to help one another whenever possible. In times of trouble, when the team is losing many points and desperately needs to catch up, it is crucial for everyone to possess the right mindset to be resilient. This mindset can be carried from the court to other aspects in her life, along with skills in discipline and time management. 

A quote that Shu Xian lives by is, “Don’t stop learning because when we stop learning is the time when we start losing.” She claims that she used to have an ego, which made her arrogant. However, she came to realise that no matter how good one thinks they are, there is always someone out there who is better. While it is important to carry the spirit of excellence and give one’s best in everything, Shu Xian holds onto the value of humility. There is always something to learn to better oneself. “Who we are today is not because of how great we are but because of the people around us who have helped and moulded us,” she says. Furthermore, she remarks that there are always two sides to something, such as people who will support the path one wants to take and people who will simply criticise that. At the end of the day, it comes down to what one’s own passion is and whether one has the courage to pursue it. 

Esther Lim Jia Xin – Basketball 

Esther Lim on the far right, sporting jersey number 12.

At 17, Esther Lim is an A-Levels student and basketball player who represents the Selangor state women’s team, for which she was selected at 12 years old to compete under the MSSM U12 competition. She has since grown with the Selangor team, representing the state in U15 and then U17 competitions, for which she played 3×3 competitions at the age of just 14. 

Her competitive basketball beginnings date back to when she was 9, after being selected amongst her classmates to go for tryouts because she was the tallest member of her class at the time. The basketball coach encouraged her to play alongside the existing basketball team in training sessions. Soon enough, Esther had made lots of great friends in these teammates, whom she laughed, cried and did almost everything with. This intimate bond that she developed with her teammates-turned-friends have made her the basketball player she is today. 

Even before Esther began training sessions and competed in tournaments, she was already engrossed in playing basketball as a hobby since she was 6 years old. Her relationship with the sport, spanning over a decade, is thus one that is integral to Esther’s life and something she could not possibly envision herself turning away from. In fact, Esther’s favourite jersey number is the number 12 because when she was a little girl, this was the number of her childhood house in which her love for basketball began. On top of the deep sense of nostalgia attached to the number 12, she also believes the number brings her great luck when she competes.  

As a point guard, Esther’s role is to defend and block the opposition from scoring points. Thus, she believes the “feeling of being able to successfully snatch away or keep the opposing players quiet throughout the game is amazing and what [she] truly loves most about competing! Having already acquired a great number of accolades as a state player, Esther believes that her highest achievement to date was becoming Champions of the U15 Mun Chak Cup, during which she was also awarded with the Most Assists in the competition for the Girls Category, in 2018 and 2019. She aims to one day have the opportunity to be selected to compete in the Sukma Games and to take in their play style and atmosphere within this competing team. 

The biggest challenge Esther has faced in her sports career was when she was selected for the U17 Selection Camp at age 14. With an age gap between other players who were 2 or 3 years older and more experienced than her, Esther was faced with a new and unbelievably tough challenge. Training was more complex than ever. Still, Esther took on this challenge headstrong, listening attentively to instructions from her coaches, keeping up with the work she was assigned and constantly fighting until the end, with the hopes that her coaches would see the hard work she had put in and the potential for her to compete for the team. ” 

During the MCO, she struggled like many having to stay at home but stayed productive by continuing to train and work on her personal fitness. What kept her motivated were the memories, including struggles, she shared with her teammates. Esther emanates a heartfelt and warm disposition about her as she repeatedly speaks fondly of the emotional bond and unbreakable chemistry that exists between her and her teammates – one akin to a family’s. It is this tight-knit connection that drives her and her teammates to keep fighting and training to be better, together. Furthermore, Esther’s role models are her seniors, who had taken her under their wing throughout her time in the Selangor state team and patiently guided her through several tough situations. As for NBA players, she looks up to LeBron James or Stephen Curry for their mesmerising gameplay. 

The sports scholarship Esther has received from Sunway means a lot to her as it supports her both financially and personally as a sportswoman, allowing her and fellow athletes to advance themselves in their respective crafts and aid those who are experiencing financial hardships, especially during unprecedented times such as late. To exhibit her gratitude for this scholarship, Esther chose to join the Sunway Women’s Basketball Team with the intention of representing Sunway in basketball competitions in the foreseeable future. 

Lastly, to her past self, Esther wishes to say the following words of encouragement: “Don’t ever give up. Keep running and pushing yourself and do whatever you can! Ignore those depressing days and make sure that you strive to improve yourself because you never know what lies ahead.” 

Chan Yew Thung – Basketball

Chan Yew Thung, 21, studies a Diploma in Events Management at Sunway University. Outside of the classroom, he is a basketball player for the state of Kuala Lumpur, having won two national championships under the team and Best Defensive Player in 2017, as well as for the Red Baron club. Yew Thung had been playing basketball as a hobby since 2007 and his enamour for the sport originates from the time he would follow his grandmother out for her community morning exercises at a court, where he would play basketball on his own. In 2015, he was first selected to join the state team and, as of this year, is in the midst of preparing for the Sukma Games in 2022. 

Yew Thung is inspired by Kobe Bryant in particular because the top-shooting NBA player had overcome many hardships just to even begin to play basketball and eventually went on to become one of the greatest, most well-respected players, competing at the highest level. 

It was once Yew Thung began his professional training at 14 that he started facing his own personal setbacks such as doubting himself whenever he came up against stronger opponents. Earlier on, he had questioned whether he was really good enough for the sport. Nevertheless, he showed great self-awareness and determination by continuing to take on challenges of playing against adult basketballers and gradually built up his experience through participating in many competitions, including both 3×3 and 5×5. By doing so, he was able to stop feeling inferior while now focusing on how he could get on par with his opponents. If ever he feels like giving up, he reminds himself of why he started playing in the first place and how much he’s been able to endure thus far. 

Teamwork skills are among the most valuable things Yew Thung has learned in basketball that has helped him in other aspects of his life. For instance, teamwork is important in his studies at Sunway when collaborating with teammates in a group assignment. He also notes how the support of his family transcends from his sports career to his academics. Thirdly, he’s learned how to have more confidence in himself in basketball, which is a mindset that has helped him achieve more in life so long as he puts his mind to it. 

Yew Thung’s advice for other budding athletes is to work hard because one can never expect something to come easy or instantly. Through it all, stay humble. 

Lee Jia Qiang (Ben) – Basketball 

Currently 21 years old, Lee Jia Qiang, also known as Ben, is a student of Financial Risk Management & Banking Finance at Victoria University and a state basketball player of six years. Ben started playing basketball at 9 years old due to his outgoing nature and liking of sports in general. The thrill that came with playing championships with his teammates motivated him to continue down the path of competitive basketball. His highest achievement so far is winning the national championship in his debut year with the state team at the age of 15. 

It was during a finals game when Ben’s coach reprimanded his team to focus on their group work instead of being too self-absorbed on winning MVP awards, which was initially causing the team to lose sight of what was most important and suffer in their score. A humbling experience, this became Ben’s most impactful memory to date. 

Ben believes that the best part about playing competitive sports is the healthy competitive environment that fuels one to keep pushing themselves and improve in each session. He finds that, now playing at a university level, he is not as tall nor as muscular as other players, which puts him at a physical disadvantage, and thus needs to be made up for in his areas of strength. Aside from this, he deems his mentality one of the hardest challenges to overcome after a loss. Nonetheless, Ben acknowledges that through playing basketball, one learns to pick themselves up following any failure and keep moving forward, consequently becoming better versions of themselves. 

To prepare himself to overcome mental obstacles, Ben would note down or review his mistakes before the next tournament, showing great self-awareness. Furthermore, he likes to listen to music to calm down before games. His favourite quote is, “If you love sports, make an effort not an excuse,” which reminds him to always work harder. Similarly, to describe himself and his love for basketball throughout his athletic career, in one word, it would be “persistence”. 

Chan Carmen – Basketball

Chan Carmen, 18, is studying A-Levels while being a state basketball player for Kuala Lumpur.  She began her basketball journey in primary school at 9 years old, getting into the sport largely through the influence of her dad, who often watched the NBAs in their living room. Carmen had grown fond of watching the NBAs with him and was inspired to volunteer to join her school’s weekly training programme. By age 11, Carmen was selected into the Kuala Lumpur state team of MSSM. 

Since she began playing basketball, her jersey number has been number 9, which has subsequently become her favourite jersey number, for she believes it symbolises luck and brings her confidence in matches. Carmen feels more relaxed when playing 5×5, consequently allowing her to perform better in her point guard position. Her preference for 5×5 matches over 3×3 is due to the fact that the latter is still relatively new to her; thus, she is in the process of learning and getting used to its rules and pace. 

Carmen had explored various sports before but it was basketball that really stuck with her in the long run. She enjoys playing it in spite of the difficulties, challenges and doubts that come with the sport. As basketball had become embedded into her life, she found that it was not something she would easily give up on, but rather something worth fighting for. 

Certainly, this outlook is not in vain as she can be proud that her highest achievement thus far is making one of the squads that represented Malaysia in the 2019 ASEAN School Games, for which they had come in 4th place. After re-emerging from the movement restrictions of 2020-2021, Carmen has been focused on both her studies and training to keep herself on her toes in preparation for any upcoming competitions. She hopes to give back to Sunway by bringing good results in return for the sports scholarship she was awarded. 

The lifestyle of a student athlete presents Carmen with some of her biggest challenges, such as managing her time between the two studies and sports and laying out her priorities depending on examination versus competition periods. Despite these hardships, Carmen enjoys the benefits that playing basketball brings to her over health and fitness. Besides, as a team game, basketball has taught her how to cooperate with teammates and her coaches, as well as how to learn from other players in different teams and even make new friends in them. 

A quote that keeps Carmen going is, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life… and that’s why I succeed,” as said by Michael Jordan. Apart from these words from one of the most highly-regarded NBA players, Carmen also looks up to another NBA star, LeBron James, as her role model. She considers him an all-rounded person who has not only garnered countless achievements in his basketball career but also has an admirable personal life with his family and business endeavours. Should Carmen retire from playing basketball some day, she would like to carry on channeling the similar kind of attitude and energy that LeBron brings about beyond the court. 

One need not be an athlete to resonate with the stories of these fellow students in their journeys toward self-fulfillment. With that, Echo hopes that its readers have enjoyed meeting the stars this month and will keep a lookout for these budding athletes in their journeys throughout trials and tribulations. Likewise, Echo wishes that its readers feel energised to keep working towards one’s own goals and score! 

Written By: Michelle 

Edited By: Jamie

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