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Small player, big heart

July 27, 2011 - 8:30pm


 PHOTO: Courtesy of Koh Yi Thong

HIS COACH asked him to choose between his student council activities and basketball training. And the 17-year-old, torn between his role as student council vice-president and basketball captain, was reduced to tears as he deliberated.

After an agonising night of reflection, Koh Yi Thong made a decision.

"I chose to show up for basketball training. If I chose council instead, I would have wasted all the hard work I put on the court over the past six years.

"Thankfully, my council president was understanding and told me to focus on basketball training for the time being."

And it was a decision that paid off for his school a year later.

Yi Thong led the River Valley High School basketball team to their best ever achievement – a third-place finish in the A Division tournament this year.

"No one expected us to be that good. They thought we couldn’t do it. We even surprised ourselves but we realised that all of our hard work paid off."

His coach, Mr Ong Bock Kow, 59, said: "I am glad he stayed with the team. He is a very good defender and captain.

"He knows how to motivate other players and can lead his teammates well."

But the leader of the team doesn't stand taller than the other players.

At 1.72m tall and weighing 58kg, Yi Thong is the smallest member of the 12-member squad.

He admits that his teammates tease him about his height.

He said: "They always make fun of me because I'm the shortest one there. It's quite hilarious actually. But they realise that height isn't the most important thing in basketball.

"There are a lot of other things one needs to have to be a good basketball player.

"So I work on those things, like build up my speed, stamina and positioning on the court."

Cross-country runner

Yi Thong, who is also a cross-country runner for his school, said he was motivated to play basketball by his mother at the tender age of 10.

"My mother was the first one to bring me to the basketball court. She just wanted me to grow taller initially.

"But I liked the game so much and found out I was good at it."

His talent caught the attention of River Valley High School, which offered him a place through the Direct Schools Admission scheme.

He said: "I scored 238 for my PSLE, but it wasn't enough to enter my school.

"They require a minimum score of 250 to get in.

"But I am so grateful that they still offered me a place because of basketball."

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