This is the second special feature that we will be having where we will check in with our pioneers of Raffles Basketball.
For today, we will be hearing from Mr Loh Mun Kong (RI '82, RJC '84). He is one gentleman that has over the years been faithfully supporting our teams during our National School Games tournament and cheering by the sidelines!
What do you treasure most about your days studying at Raffles?
Mun Kong: I took part in many Co-Curricular Activities, e.g. badminton, basketball, air-rifle (NCC Land) (back then it was called Extra Curricular Activities) and decided to drop badminton in Sec 3 to concentrate on basketball because of the bonding within the team that includes all levels (during those days, JC 1 and 2 students were in RI too). The big basketball family makes training enjoyable. This is evident till today when you see older players still enjoying playing together every week.
Also, we being the first English educated school to make zonal and national finals in a sport traditionally dominated by "Chinese Schools", made our every match become like a final because every school wanted to beat Raffles. Thus, the values of Teamwork, Hard work, Perseverance were important. Even when we were behind, our opponents would not dare relax because everyone knew Raffles played hard till the last second.
G: Awesome! That is our very DNA alright.
How was training like back then in the 80s?
MK: We trained officially 3 times a week and unofficially another 2 days (Sat and Sun). On Sundays, we trained in the morning at Thomson Secondary School (school renamed to North Vista), the venue for National School competition. There were 7 basketball courts then and we got to play with former national players every Sunday and that really helped to improve our skills.
G: Wow. If only we could spend that amount of time training and being dedicated to the sport.
Any Advice for our young budding Ballers?
Most Raffles basketballers are new to the sport so we may not be good in the initial years but we always do well as we get older and stronger. Therefore, do not give up when you are not doing well in the initial years. For example, one of my team members picked up the game late and wasn't in the main team in RI. He continued to train hard and by the time he was in JC1, he was our sharp-shooter. If we had 3-pointers during our time, he would score 20 points a game easily. He continues to play basketball with the Pioneers team and still shoots well.
Basketball is a team game but it is also important to improve oneself on your own. There is only so much a coach can do during training so everyone has to spend time dribbling, shooting, driving, etc. on your own to improve your individual skill before or after training.
One other way to improve is to play with/against better players. Old boys play every Saturday 4-7pm so if future basketballers are interested, they should join the fun and learn.
G: Thanks for your advice. It is great to hear insight from our seniors. Before we end, any last words?
Raffles basketballers are not alone. There is a big family, a big group of alumni behind supporting all of you. Although most are busy with studies, career and family, we still play the game and support the various Raffles teams during the Zonal and National competitions.
We have our own Annual Alumni Competition (Gryphons Cup) where many old boys and girls either turn up to support or participate in the competition. I may be wrong but this is the only sports in RI that has such a competition with big turnout that is not organized by ORA. I played in the first Gryphons Cup back in 1983 (then it was called ORABA Cup) and the RI Basketball family continues to grow. This is good but I hope we can have a bigger family cos not all current players participate in this event.
At 50, I'm probably one of the youngest in my team (Pioneers). If we can continue to play and enjoy the game, I believe all future and current players will enjoy the game too.
G: Thank you sir for taking time out to share your heartfelt thoughts and reflections. There is much for us to learn from you guys. Hope to see you at courtside in 2020!