Rock-solid Fong reigns

Rock-solid Fong reigns

NBA's Rajon Rondo tips Hong Kong's one-on-one basketball champion to excel in battle for 'king of the rock' title

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NBA star Rajon Rondo (right) presents the winner's trophy to Ga Fong Shing-yee.
NBA star Rajon Rondo (right) presents the winner's trophy to Ga Fong Shing-yee.
Photos: K.Y. Cheng/SCMP
In basketball slang, the "rock" is the ball. Common usage: "Pass the rock (note the lowercase "r"), Bill, you hog!" It's also the nickname for Alcatraz, the seemingly inescapable prison built on an island, surrounded by shark-infested waters, in San Francisco Bay, in the United States.

For 29 years, until Alcatraz became part of the National Park Service in 1963, the "rock" was home to some of America's most ruthless criminals, including Al Capone.

At that time, a criminal would have done just about anything to avoid being sentenced there. But this month if you're competing for your country in the annual Red Bull King of the Rock - a one-on-one basketball tournament - the infamous prison yard is the place to be.

Ga Fong Shing-yee, 28, who won the regional title on Saturday in the Hong Kong and Macau finals, at Southorn Stadium, in Wan Chai, will join 63 other players in the world finals on September 22.

From the start on Saturday, 1.91-metre-tall Fong looked the man to beat. His height, combined with slick moves to get to the basket, and a steady jump shot, proved too much for the rest of the field. His stiffest challenge came in the finals against the shorter, but more physical Chan Wing-wai.

In a low-scoring affair, Fong demonstrated his fine post game, backing Chan under the rim and making some short jumpers. Chan did not back down and showed determined defence. But he was clearly over-matched. Final score: 10-7.

The gruelling six-round event brought out the best in Fong, who knows he has a lot of work on if he wants to win in Alcatraz.

"I need to bulk up," he said after the finals. "I'm not bulky enough ... And I'm going to need to work more on my three-pointers. I have more confidence now, so I'll put up more three-pointers."

NBA star Rajon Rondo, the Boston Celtics' point guard, served as the ambassador for the event. On Friday he held a workshop for 20 under-16 players at South China Athletic Association's Hong Kong Club House. Rondo ran the drills and encouraged them to pick up the intensity. "It was great to coach some of the most talented kids from Hong Kong," Rondo said. "The quality of basketball overall has been amazing."

Rondo made an appearance during the King of the Rock's final three matches. Fans had packed the stadium hours before, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. He was decked out in camouflage-shorts and boot-shoes and seemed eager to dribble around between matches. He certainly had the best view in the house, standing courtside during the five-minute final. He also presented Fong with his trophy and posed for photos.

"We all grew up playing one-on-one basketball, but it's just great to see the excitement that an event like this creates," Rondo said later.

"Ga Fong showed his class, and I'd back ... up his game against opponents from all over the world at the World Final."

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