The Fubon Braves are also ready to show us why basketball is one of the most popular sports in Taipei. The Braves are fancied to be a top team in the Super Basketball League this year and they want to get off to a good start by playing well in the Seri Mutiara Cup. The wildcard in this group will be the Malaysian team, NS Matrix. With four players from the NBL G-Leagues’ Texas Legends, they have bolstered their local players with strong imports. In the last Seri Mutiara, NS Matrix were the first runner-up; can they repeat that performance or finally rise to the top this year? Here’s a lowdown on the Malaysian team!
Bryant Lester is an Australian who coached the Malaysian national team from 2005 for two years before joining the NBL Johor Tigers for 3 years. He has global coaching experience in Australia, Malaysia and spent 15 years in the Middle East. He is currently with NS Matrix and is tasked with overseeing the team’s performance in the upcoming Seri Mutiara Cup and Agong Cup.
Lester says, “Malaysia might be a little behind on the national team compared to the global average, but we have some very good individual players who can bring surprises to the court. The disadvantages are largely due to the fact that the Malaysian players are not as physical as some of the counterparts and generally have less exposure at the high-level game. In general terms, standard is quite good but there are still teams at the club level further ahead than us, such as Japan, Korea and China.”
• Keith Hornsby
Hornsby played his first two years of college basketball at UNC Asheville. As a junior, he transferred to LSU, starting in 52 of 53 games and finished with averages of 13.3 points. In his senior season, he averaged 13.1 points, second on the team to Ben Simmons. After going undrafted in the 2016 NBA draft, Hornsby signed with the Dallas Mavericks on July 27, 2016. On October 30, 2016, Hornsby was selected by the Texas Legends with the ninth overall pick in the 2016 NBA Development League Draft.
• Joseph Avila
Avila began his career at Navy, where he played for two years and won the Patriot League Rookie of the Year. After playing at Navy, he transferred to South Texas College where he redshirted and then transferred to Colorado State. He earned first-team All-Mountain West honors as a senior. After going undrafted in the 2015 NBA draft, Avila joined the Houston Rockets for the 2015 NBA Summer League. On July 27, he signed with Stella Artois Leuven Bears of the Belgian League. In July, 2016, Avila joined the New York Knicks for the 2016 NBA Summer League. On September 26, 2016, he signed with the Chicago Bulls, but was waived after appearing in two preseason games. On January 28, he was traded to the Texas Legends.
• Bryson Fonville
Fonville is one of the most decorated men’s basketball players in the history of The Catholic University of America. He started in every game except for one in the 2014-2105 season. As a four year starter he scored 1,649 career points, placing him in the top-10 in University history. His total steals also places him in the top-four. He competed in the NCAA Tournament three times. On October 30, 2016, Fonville was drafted as the ninth pick of the fifth round of the NBA Development League 2016 draft by the Texas Legends.
NS Matrix’s Seri Mutiara Cup Hopes
Coach says: “It is really hard to estimate our position as the overall standards of the participating teams have sky rocketed since last year. On our own front, we will be looking to give our younger players some exposure at the event. We will bring in some exports to bulk the team as well. Increasing exposure will help increase the depth of the team in general and I thank Dato’ Lee for putting in the funding to support the team and giving us the opportunity to grow into the future.”
NS Matrix’s Strengths
Coach says: “NS Matrix players have very high game IQ. They are very intelligent and this allows us to run many different tactics. I am pleasantly surprised at the speed in which they pick up the finer points of the game. We also have plenty of skillful perimeter shooters that can really open up the play and force opponents to come out more. Some of the local guys I expect to lead the charge are Wing Jiat, Milo, Anthony, Blackie (Zhi Hao), Cobra, Gan (former national team) and Fung. The level of play is high so I expect to find many people coming to watch. The style of play is also going to be very varied. We have big and strong European guys, the tall Chinese players as well as the quick and nimble Japanese and Koreans. The many different styles of player will be exciting for the spectators as well as the players.”
NS Matrix’s Group Stage Fixtures
12/9/2017: NS Matrix (Malaysia) vs Fubon Braves (Taiwan)
13/9/2017: Guangzhou Longlions (China) vs NS Matrix (Malaysia)
14/9/2017: NS Matrix (Malaysia) vs KK Split (Croatia)