The impressive Eastern Long Lions proved that basketball is becoming a more viable career option in Hong Kong after defeating Team Matrix at Dunk Kong last Wednesday.
The event, which took place in Southorn Stadium in Wan Chai, featured an exhibition match between the Long Lions and Team Matrix, which was led by former NBA star Shawn “Matrix” Marion. It also saw some spectacular dunks from local players and several international basketball stars, including Canada’s “Dunk King” Jordan Kilganon.
Local Long Lions’ star Adam Xu, who was born and raised in Hong Kong but played for New York University in the US, said Hong Kong still has a long way to go to catch up with the US, and even China.
“I used to think I was a great player, since I was one of the top prospects in Hong Kong and dominated the local scene,” Xu said. “Then I went to the US and I realised ‘wow, I’m nothing’.”
Top American and Chinese players are not only bigger and more athletic, they train harder and smarter, he said.
Still, basketball is incredibly popular in Hong Kong, and this gives the city plenty of potential to have a more developed professional scene and to develop more high-level talent, Xu added.
The former Hong Kong International School student’s parents both played basketball for the China national team. So it’s hardly a surprise that Xu became one of Hong Kong’s best players. Still, he said that if he grew up in the US, he’d be a much better player now “without question”. “One week in the US improves you tenfold because you’re exposed to a higher level of basketball and a different mindset to players here,” the 25-year-old said.
One of Hong Kong’s brightest prospects is Xu’s fellow Eastern star, 21-year-old Douglas Ng Chung-tsun, who is currently playing for Chinese Culture University in Taiwan.
Ng said that even though Taiwan and Hong Kong are similar in terms of talent, Taiwan does a better job of developing players.
“Taiwan emphasises your own style whereas Hong Kong places more emphasis on teamwork, sometimes overlooking individual skills,” he said. “The coaches in Taiwan watch you every day and cater for your needs and development.”
Ng said that Hong Kong also has a “cultural problem” when it comes to sports. “Hong Kong is Hong Kong,” he said.
“You have to balance a lot of things, and that’s a time-management issue.”
Xu and Ng, who both hope to play in the Chinese Basketball Association one day, believe Hong Kong basketball has a bright future.
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“There’s a lot of potential for Hong Kong to be a [hub] for the pro scene, and Dunk Kong is an example of that,” said Xu. “The interest is there.”
Xu also said Hong Kong has more basketball courts than any other city in the world.
“If you have a Hong Kong ID you can book any government indoor court. The square footage [of courts] compared to the rest of the world is uncanny,” he added. “In terms of developing professional players, a lot of things have to happen. It starts with developing local talent really young, a better grass roots system, and we need kids to look at it as a legitimate career. It’s never been the case, but we’re starting to see improvements.”
His advice for talented players in Hong Kong – other than to play basketball overseas – is to train hard.
“You might think you’re working hard now, but in the US and China, there’s always someone bigger than you, faster than you, who is working a lot harder,” he said.
“You have to go beyond what Hong Kong coaches teach you. Use the internet, watch other great players, see how they train and take your game to the next level.”