In the recently concluded MABA National U17 Championships, there was one player in particular that performed at a consistent level. He may not be overly eye-catching, but held steady enough to help his team win a national championship. With his 16-point, 12-rebound per game averages, Tan Chee Wey was also able to come out with a regular season MVP award and the story is only starting to take shape.
During the final, Chee Wey played out of his mind, single-handedly outplaying his competition in their entirety, a team that was filled with four of his national junior teammates. In 40 minutes of playing time, he was able to drop a staggering 25 points and 21 rebound, a feat which unsurprisingly netted him a Finals MVP award shortly after.
If you’ve ever had an opportunity to catch one of Chee Wey’s games, you’ll immediately notice his collected demeanor, never ceasing to overly express his emotions both on and off the court. After hitting a much needed shot to stop his team’s bleeding, all he did was quietly trot back to the other end of the floor, like he’s been there, done that, countless times before, all the while reminding his teammates about their defensive positioning.
From that moment moving forward, I have unofficially dubbed Chee Wey “Captain Cold,” simply for his inside-out calmness, but at the same time, fearlessness in making ice-cold, clutch shots under pressure.
However, the national junior’s newest MVP credited his composure to the international experience he gained while representing Malaysia during the previous two years, recalling that: “Representing my country and to be able to play is something big, but I was also very nervous during those times. The court was big, and the first time I wore the national team jersey, everything was just so new to me.”
“I LEARNED A LOT FROM THERE, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, I LEARNED HOW TO CONTROL MY TEMPO AND EMOTIONS DURING BIG GAMES.”
Being the Michael Jordan of your own small community isn’t a feat that may be out of reach for many, but once you do step out of your comfort zone and play against some of the best on the international stage, the learn process kicks right back into gear. During the U16 Asian Championships in Foshan, China, Chee Wey particularly enjoyed his first game against regional powerhouse, the Philippines.
“I just told myself to execute what the coaches wanted us to do, but they were very good and Kai Sotto is so tall,” says Chee Wey as he shakes his head. “The tallest player I’ve ever seen!’
These types of international level games can also serve as wake-up calls for the 6-foot-1 power forward, helping him to realize that the only way for him to become an even better player is to keep grinding, work hard, and not take anything for granted. In doing so, he makes sure to keep his game well-rounded.
“I play as a point forward in the [MPL] D-League and we have some senior players that can cover inside, but I also go in and help in securing rebounds,’ shares the Malaysian youngster.
At the tender age of only 17-years-old, it’s still too early to write his default position into stone, especially in how modern basketball is being played. Chee Wey refuses to limit himself, rather letting the game’s situation dictate his ideal position.
“I hope I can master both being a forward and center, so I can be more versatile.”
Another aspect that differentiates Chee Wey from the crop is his tremendous work ethic. He takes pride in being responsible, often initiating communication with his coach and teammates throughout an entire game, striving to work every second of a game into perfection.
In fact, at times, head coach Satyaseelan S/O Kuppusamy is able to calmly stand there and watch his boys execute they had talked about in the lead-up to games with confidence. He knows he doesn’t have much to worry about with Captain Cold as a security blanket.
“I FEEL LIKE WE HAVE TO PUT IN 100 PERCENT OF OUR EFFORT INTO OUR TRAINING, MAYBE EVEN 110 PERCENT BECAUSE IF WE DON’T PRACTICE LIKE IT’S A REAL GAME, THEN WE WON’T BE ABLE TO DELIVER WHAT COACH WANTS WHEN IT REALLY MATTERS.”
The persistent attitude of never settling for just being good, along with strong mental toughness, all stems from Chee Wey’s 5-year-long journey, one where he had to leave his family members, to study at a sports school far away from the comfort of his home. It all comes down to his wild dreams of basketball, and with unrelenting support from his family, he didn’t have to think twice before deciding to move forward towards his goal.
Sure, there are may be many nights, after heavy practices, when the young Chee Wey may feel like giving up his dream to go back to his family, but through all the emotional and physical pain, and with all the reasons for him to want to take a step back, in the end, he didn’t. Instead, he sucked it up in order to conquer whatever was in front of him, all for one reason.
“I keep telling myself that tomorrow will be a better day. I just have to work harder for my family,” a somber-toned Chee Wey recalls while looking into his father’s eyes.
As I sat there listening, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Kevin Durant’s 2013-2014 NBA MVP acceptance speech where he looked into his mother’s eyes and said, “You sacrificed for us. You’re the real MVP.” It certainly gave me the same chills and really showed me how much Chee Wey truly appreciates his family for giving him unconditional love and support since day one.
Being the strong-willed young man that he is, Chee Wey didn’t allow his emotions to stray too hard ahead of him, pausing for a few seconds to gather back his focus after finishing his sentence.
“I just can’t stop here, I want to be better! I have to, if I want to play in even bigger games!”
Chee Wey, or as I call him, Captain Cold, just finished his high school basketball career on a high note, but is already thinking ahead towards his future. Although uncertainties still remain at this juncture in regards to Malaysia basketball, his mature and polite attitude should serve him well as he continues to develop as a player and as a person.
And who knows just exactly how far he can go?
The real tough journey has only just begun, but if this young bull continues to be himself and continues to freeze opponents with his cool calm, he’ll be fine. I’m very certain about that.