Ask most athletes who their idols are, and they’ll give you a list of their favourite athletes, and why they wish to follow in their footsteps. That’s not so much the case for So Kwun-wai, who is a shooting guard for Ying Wa College’s basketball team, and who led his team to win the Nike All Hong Kong Schools Jing Ying Basketball Tournament against Diocesan Boys’ School (DBS) on February 5.
“I want to develop my own style,” says the basketball player. “And I’ll do that by learning from the techniques of different basketball stars [and creating my own].”
Kwun-wai, 17, is well known for his shooting techniques on court, which means his opponents tend to keep a very careful eye on him in matches, but even when he’s on the offensive, Kwun-wai places a lot of emphasis on defence.
“San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard always manages to stop his rivals from scoring,” Kwun-wai says. “He prevents people from passing the ball to whoever he is guarding – and [watching] his technique has helped me realise how important defence is. You need both, not just offence, to be an all-rounded basketball player.”
When the team set up shooting opportunities for him, Kwun-wai makes sure that he gives his best for every shot. But what is it about Kwun-wai that makes him such a formidable shooting guard?
“I train hard,” he says immediately. “The DBS basketball team had, for many years, taken the titles in all of the inter-school competitions, and it was hard to beat them. I’ve been trying to work on my shots, to make them more accurate. [During practise] I shoot more than 10 times in each position, and I try to make sure I successfully make at least seven shots.”
Every time he misses a shot, he considers what might have gone wrong; his posture, or the angle of the shot. That diligence helped before the tournament, but to win against DBS, the team needed more than just his improved shooting.
“This year we developed a number of strategies, and most of them were based on quick attacks,” Kwun-wai explains. “The DBS basketball players are physically stronger [than us], so we needed to be faster than them. For example, during our offence, we had two players guarding the DBS centre Yip Yiu-pong. One of our players would then suddenly attack by running inside the zone and taking the shot.”
Kwun-wai’s hard work was rewarded when he was named Most Valuable Player in the tournament, and his team defeated the defending champions DBS 72-70 in the final at MacPherson Stadium, Mong Kok. The victory, Kwun-wai says, was a sweet one. It felt like they had meted out revenge for their defeat to DBS in the final of the A-Grade Inter-school Basketball Competition (Division One – Kowloon) in November last year.
The shooting guard attributes their success to toughness of the mind too.
“I don’t feel particularly confident when I play against DBS, but this year was my last year. I told myself and the team how far we had gone and how much we had accomplished just to reach this stage, and why we couldn’t let our efforts go to waste now. So even though we were trailing DBS by 10 points after the third set, we didn’t panic and focused on scoring. It was a great feeling when we took the two point lead and went on to win the match,” he said.
“No words can describe how I felt after winning the tournament. I’ve no regrets, because I love basketball and I love every single game I play.”
If you could have the abilities of any animal for one competition, which one would you choose and why?
The poisonous snake – it’s so agile and fast, and it has a deadly attack. One bite from it and its prey is dead. I’d love to have the ability to be super quick (so that I could score) and super deadly (so that I could win).
What food would you never give up?
Eggs. They provide protein and give me lots of energy.
Which fictional character would you choose as your teammate?
I would want Hanamichi Sakuragi from the Japanese manga Slam Dunk. He has great rebounding and jump shooting skills, and he could help our team score lots.
What song title best describes you when you’re playing your sport?
Shakira’s Try Everything, which is also a feature song of the film Zootopia. With lyrics like: “Birds don’t just fly, they fall down and get up/Nobody learns without getting it wrong,” it’s taught me that we need to learn from our mistakes, not just move on. We need to stop worrying about “hitting the ground”, and start concentrating more on “getting up” to win.
Edited by Ginny Wong