Catching up with Alumni I
This is the first of a series of posts where we will catch up with our ex-ballers who have graduated and gone onto further studies or have started work. We will hear snippets about their life in Raffles back then and how they are currently faring as well.
Hope these posts will continue to inspire our young Raffles Ballers as they seek to bring glory to the school and look forward to a bright future ahead!
For today, we will be catching up with Ming Jun (Batch of 2014) who is currently studying in the States....
Griffles: Hi MJ, thanks for taking time out of your busy study schedule to share with us how your time at Raffles and Raffles Basketball was like.
How was Basketball training like for you and your teammates?
Anything for you Sir :) Well, training was tough, regimental but super fulfilling. In my year 1-4 days, we didn't have the sheltered courts so we would train at the Y1-4 outdoor courts. I remember stretching in the shade every day at 3pm and seeing heat-waves rise from the asphalt courts, but still being really eager to go out on the court and start training.
Our coach back then had some pretty crazy rules too like:
1) No smiling during training
2) Always stand up straight on 2 legs
3) No shooting/playing after practice
But that really helped to bring the team together and made sure everyone was motivated and disciplined. On top of that, it made training really fun when everyone went super hard in scrimmages and encouraged each other (especially during suicides at the end).
Griffles: Wow. That sounds really tough going. Looks like our current boys could learn a thing or two from you guys.
How about any difficulties you faced during your days as a student/baller and how did you cope?
MJ: The greatest difficulty I faced was balancing school work and training! Yr1-4 Training 5 times a week was really taxing and I would often come home at about 9-10pm every day and just fall asleep so my grades suffered. In JC, training was less often but I got involved in council and ISLE too and I felt quite burnt out and sleepy 😴all the time.
I think what eventually helped me cope was finding the discipline to study and finish my homework during the few pockets of time (between classes, before training) etc. that I had. It also helped having a group of council mates who understood that I was mainly committed to basketball :)
Griffles: Looks like you were really stretched during your Yr1-6 days and it is pretty amazing how you balanced your academic workload and CCA commitments.
Could you share with us one significant memory that remains of your basketball days in Raffles?
MJ: The most significant game I had was a B div game against Dunman Secondary in 2011 in the second round of nationals. Dunman Sec were the favourites to win that year with a team of really strong players (who were throwing alley oop dunks at warmups). Going into the game having to win by 12 points to qualify for the semi finals, we were the clear underdogs and faced an uphill task.
We started out weak with their players scoring at will and locking us down on defence, we trailed 41-28 after the 3rd quarter.
Just as all hope seemed to be lost, we rallied hard in the 4th quarter on the back of good shooting and an intense full court press and somehow managed to even the score at 46 apiece with under a minute left. With just a couple of seconds left in the game, Baokun got fouled while shooting and went to the line with the chance to win the game. However, instead of capitalizing on the chance to beat the best team in the competition, we opted to miss both free throws to send the game into overtime to have a chance to win by 12.
We ended up losing the game by 2 points 46- 48 when their star player squeezed out a foul on the other end of the floor at the end of regulation. Despite this, this game still stays with me because it really showed our fighting spirit as a team, and I still am proud of how we refused to settle, even for victory, because we never stopped believing in our team.
Griffles: That sounds like one heck of a game. Hearing you share it already made my feathers stand :) Awesome stuff. Thanks for sharing.
What was one value that you learnt and cherished during training?
MJ: Responsibility in learning that I was accountable to my teammates. It came in the form of knowing that no matter how ''valid'' my personal reasons are for missing training it still hurt the team. On the court, it was the responsibility of pulling my own weight since slacking off for one moment would render my teammates efforts useless. Learning how to be responsible through Basketball has made me always conscious of others and helped me to be a better team player.
What are you doing now after graduating from Raffles?
I'm currently studying Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at UC Berkeley in the US. :)
Why did you choose to study in the US?
MJ: Studying in the US is something I've always dreamed of since I entered JC. The experience of being away from home in a new environment really called out to me. The US seemed particularly attractive as it gave me the chance to be close to learn from the best minds all over the world and work with the best companies in the world (as well as be close to the heart of basketball culture).
Are you still playing Basketball in University?
MJ: I still play basketball but mostly recreational! Being in the US, the talent here is many levels higher against anything I've ever experienced so it's hard to compete at any level. However, I play anywhere from 4 - 7 hours a week through enrolling in basketball classes offered by the school or by dropping by the gym for a few pickup games.
Finally, what advice or words of encouragement would you like to provide to the current Raffles Basketballers?
MJ: My advice would be to make the most out of your time in JC and have the best time of your life! (Without sacrificing schoolwork of course ;) Having the chance to play alongside each other and play competitively is really a one of a kind experience to be cherished so train hard and play hard while you can!
Griffles: Thanks Ming for taking time out again to answer our questions and to update us on how you are faring. It's great to see our ballers graduate and continue to do well in whichever areas they have entered into. All the best for your studies and see you back on our Homecourt during Gryphon's Cup 2019!!