KUALA LUMPUR: With less than two months left, the Malaysian basketball team is racing against time to complete the application of naturalised players ahead of the 2023 SEA Games in Cambodia, this May.

National men’s squad head coach, Lee Kheng Tian said the Malaysian Basketball Association (MABA) is still waiting for the government’s green light to allow them to field the naturalised players for the first time in the biennial games.

Kheng Tian said MABA has identified two players - a Nigerian-born and a Singapore-born player - to be naturalised for the upcoming SEA Games.

“Other teams like the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia are also armed with naturalised players but in Malaysia the system here is quite difficult as one cannot hold dual passport but hopefully we can get it done,” he told reporters here, today.

The coach said although the closing date to submit players’ name list was on March 5, he was told the team has up to one week before the 2023 SEA Games begin on May 5 to include the naturalised players name to the final list for Cambodia.

Asked on their main target, Kheng Thian hoped to see his team advance to at least the semi-finals, either in 5x5 or 3x3 events.

Meanwhile, though the application of the naturalised players is out of her hands, national women’s head coach, Tracy York said they would love to have them in the squad in the future.

In the meantime, the Australian said she will rely on the combination of seniors including those who helped Malaysia won gold in 5x5 event and coupled with young players to deliver a medal in Cambodia.

In the 2021 SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam, last May, Malaysia only won a bronze medal in women’s 5x5 event while the men’s squad returned home empty-handed.

Earlier, both men’s and women’s squads received a visit from Malaysia's chef de mission to the 2023 Cambodia SEA Games, Datuk Mohd Nasir Ali, who was accompanied by his deputies, Datuk Shalin Zulkifli and Sharon Wee at MABA Stadium, here.

Mohd Nasir said he welcomed the decision made by the basketball team to bring their own masseur and medical doctor as it had lessened the burden of the national contingent at the Games.

Meanwhile, he was so far satisfied with the national contingent preparations as all of them are geared up to carry Malaysia’s challenge in Phnom Penh.

The 2023 SEA Games will be held from May 5 to 17. -Bernama