In comparison to the surrounding countries within the Southeast Asia region, Brunei is indeed a few steps behind in terms of development within their basketball environment. However, it didn’t sway the nation from sending a group of passionate basketball enthusiasts to compete in the recent FIBA Asia Cup SEABA Pre-Qualifiers held in Bangkok, Thailand last month.

Benjamin Sim, a full-time fitness manager said, “First off, I have to thank FIBA and our hosts, Thailand, for providing such great hospitality, accommodations, and facilities for us during the competition.” He then joking added, “They made us feel like we were professional ballers, even if it was only for a week.”

Benjamin Sim #11  (Photo Credit: FIBA)

Similar to most other ASEAN countries, basketball isn’t the number one sport in the eyes of the public, but seen more as a mere sport to simply kill time and keeping the body active. It may be the sad reality, but Sim, along with his teammate Md Zainul Ashyraf HJ Hussin, Ahmad Termizi Bin Haji Noordeen and their entire team made their best efforts to travel and play, regardless of the challenges that would await them during their preparations.

“The trip was a challenging one, but nevertheless, a successful one because we managed to improve game after game,” highlights Zainul. Accepting every loss and learning from each of them is the current mindset of this Bruneian bunch.

Zainul further elaborated on the trip to Bangkok as one which has brought only positives for his team. “The team remains optimistic after the trip, and we are looking forward to better competition. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us.”

As the team’s floor general, Noordeen is just thrilled to see the fighting spirit they displayed over the tournament. “The team improved game by game, throughout the tournament. The morale was always up, locker room atmosphere was good even when it’s getting tough, but our confidence kept growing.”

Ahmad Termizi Bin Haji Noordeen #0 (Photo Credit: FIBA)

As a veteran on the verge of retirement from the national basketball scene, Sim told himself to just embrace every game before tipoff was set to commence in Bangkok. “I made it my mission to just enjoy every moment, on and off the court, while I was in Thailand. Nothing but smiles and good times for me despite being crushed,” laughed Benjamin Sim as he shared his tournament outlook.

When you fight side-by-side with good friends and a group of resilient teammates, wins or losses certainly aren’t the most important take-away any longer.

To these lovers of basketball, representing their nation and stepping out of it to compete is only the first crucial step in encouraging more youngsters to play and enjoy the sport in the future. “I think it’s a step in the right direction,” shares Sim. “We hope that the support we had leading up to the FIBA qualifiers continues to grow, and we can have systems in place that will support the development of our younger players.”

In Benjamin’s mind, all he really wants to do is just set an example, and hopefully, bring something extra towards the younger generation.

“With more exposure like FIBA tournaments, I hope the sport can grow. Similar to what I’ve seen in our neighboring countries.”

Zainul, a full-time human resources advisor for a well-known petroleum company, agrees with his long-time teammate, adding that, “We need to look back at our games and assess the gaps we have to develop the people that we need. The younger players must step up.”

Md Zainul Ashyraf HJ Hussin #14 (Photo Credit: FIBA)

After the fruitful journey in Bangkok, one can’t fully expect the sport’s hype in Brunei to rival that of the basketball-crazed Philippines, but more realistically, the country is taking another baby-step in searching for and developing a proper environment to train up-and-comers with passion and love.

“I feel this trip shows Brunei basketball is moving in the right direction,” Noordeen adds, “I hope this can kickstart the hunger to improve within our nation.”

“I think Brunei should give itself some time to identify young, local talent, and come up with a developmental scheme that is robust and consistent to allow them to learn the game,” Zainul firmly states. Meanwhile, he also stressed the importance of gaining support from the public eye and authorities in order for the plan to roll out ideally.

“We would need support in this area to make this happen.”

As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it does require someone to start the process at some point in time, and Brunei is certainly looking into more possibilities in developing their own basketball culture.

As Sim believes, “Success is all about how you prepare.” Brunei might be far away from immediate basketball success, but this group has already successfully proven themselves to younger Bruneians, and that basketball is more than just a game.