19 January 18 The Straits Times by DAVID LEE
Samuel Deguara has stood out since childhood; he was two metres by the age of 10.
The boy who grew another 25cm since then to become his country Malta's tallest man will present the Singapore Slingers with a towering challenge today, when the hosts take on Asean Basketball League (ABL) rivals Mono Vampire of Thailand.
Deguara, ABL's tallest player, joined Mono earlier this month and has helped them win two of their last three games. They are third and three places ahead of the Slingers in the nine-team standings.
The 26-year-old, who has won championships in Malta and Malaysia, is eyeing a third title.
"My goals are not about myself. The points and rebounds are all for the team. If the team wins, I win," he said yesterday before training at the Basketball Association of Singapore headquarters in Aljunied.
He has averaged 20 points and 11.7 rebounds despite featuring for only about 20 minutes - or half - of each ABL match and was relishing the chance to face 2.16m Slingers centre Christien Charles.
Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang said: "Defensively, we need to stop him from getting to the basket because he is taller than Christien and will be too big and strong to stop under the rim.
DO NOT DISTURB
People want to take picture always. I'm used to it but sometimes it's too much.
SAMUEL DEGUARA, on the overwhelming attention his height draws wherever he goes.
"We need to double up on the block, get Christien to play in front of him, put pressure on the passer and force them into making lobbed passes."
Deguara's size also has its pitfalls. Air travel is a hassle owing to limited leg room for his frame and size 22 feet. Hotel rooms are always too small for the 136kg centre, who has a customised bed back home.
Wherever he goes, the soft-spoken Deguara attracts attention despite his preference for privacy. He said: "People want to take picture always. I'm used to it but sometimes it's too much."
While his father and mother are 1.8m and 1.85m respectively, his brothers are equally lanky. One is 2.05m and the other is 2.1m.
He said: "I did athletics when I was starting my sports career. I trained for the long jump, shot put and 100m but I wasn't that fast. I also played football as a goalkeeper. I started playing basketball at the age of 14. I was 2.07m then and that is an advantage."
Ironically, Mono coach Douglas Marty felt Deguara offered more than just a physical presence on court.
He said: "Samuel brings positivity and a large presence at both ends of the court.
"It will take time for him to integrate, get used to our system and adjust to the rhythm and refereeing calls of this league.
"There will be advantages and disadvantages in match-ups; some teams are faster, for example, so at times, we may field those quicker than Samuel.
"We expect Samuel to run the floor in transition defence, which will be key against the Slingers. He needs to challenge Christien, but I must emphasise the game is not just on Samuel, the whole team need to step up."
SINGAPORE SLINGERS V MONO VAMPIRE
StarHub Ch112/205 & 76.25 MHz, 8pm