Getting to know a Dragon

IT is extremely rare to hear of someone who plays basketball for a living in Malaysia, but Kuek Tian Yuan has been playing basketball internationally for Malaysia's team also known as the Westports Malaysia Dragons.

Established by very young and passionate founders, Ruben Emir Gnanalingam, Datuk Wira Dani Daim and Datuk Robin Tan Yeong Ching, the team is currently playing in the Asean Basketball League which began in January and which will end sometime this month. The team has also played in countries such as Iran, Hong Kong, China and Philippines.

Originally from Muar, Johor, he has been playing basketball since the age of 13 although he was in love with football more than basketball because in school there were not many who played basketball.

One day, he was asked by his friend to play basketball and that was when a basketball team major in FBA told him he was tall and offered him to play in their team. He went for the tryouts and got selected for Johor's national team.

After relocating to Kuala Lumpur, he made his way up to being recruited in the Westports Malaysia Dragons team.

"I went for it because that is Malaysia's only official basketball team and it allowed me to play full time," he said.

The team will be competing in the SEA Games and are now undergoing training every day until it starts on Aug 13.

Who taught you how to play?
It was years ago since I first learned how to play basketball. My friends were the ones who taught me how to play. It has been a long time since I moved to Kuala Lumpur and I have not seen them in awhile, and we kind of lost contact. I cannot go back all the time because we need to train every day, even during holidays.

How old were you when you moved to KL?
I was 15 years old. My parents were okay with it because I came here with an entire team and we were given accommodation. But it is a different life – we need to learn how to live alone, and learn how to settle everything ourselves. It has been a month since I have gone back to Johor.

Are mistakes common in a game?
We often make mistakes and even myself, there will be a number of mistakes. But after the game, I will sit down and re-evaluate my mistakes so when I go back to training, I will try to change myself.
The team will play for a season of six months and if we lose the first or second game, we will need to adjust ourselves, do everything we can and hope for the better. Our coach will train us and help us with our defence or offence.

Who is your inspiration in basketball?
I don't think I have any because I fancy football rather than basketball. Before I played basketball, I have never watched a basketball game in my life; although I sometimes watch NBA games now. If I have to choose, it would be Tim Duncan because I support their team.

Do you implement skills from football into your basketball game?
No, both are completely different things. Body contact in football is very rough but in basketball, we cannot do that. If we push too hard, the referee will call it a foul. Also, in football, we can't use our hands but in basketball, we can't use our feet.

Do you bear any injuries?
A lot actually. In the past three years, I have had injuries in the back, knee and ankle. My fingers
are not as straight any more because of injuries to it. Fingers are the hardest and takes the longest to recover because we move every day.

How have these injuries impacted you?
It was scary for the back injury because that is where the spine is and it can be very dangerous. It took about three months to recover so I wasn't able to train and play for that time. Instead, I had to go through rehab and physiotherapy.