Clifford’s basketball journey came to a structural stage in secondary school. When he entered Clementi Town Secondary School, he only had one CCA in mind, Basketball. He didn’t even bothered to attend the CCA Open House talks and booths, he went straight to the basketball court to watch his seniors in a friendly match with the alumni. The scene of a 174cm alumni senior who leaped across the paint to block the shot from a 185cm star player of the current batch etched deeply in his heart. He wants to be here.
Clementi Town’s basketball team was never a top team, but Clifford didn’t mind, because he wanted to lead a team to championship from the ground up. A valiant dream to have. In their first training cum trial, there were 40 students from the secondary one level who came for the trial. At the end of the trial only 14 stayed. The trial consisted of running a timed 2.4km, and a few sprint and skill based drills, it was tough for any Singapore 13 years old, whose longest distance was 1.6km in Primary School. Many of them puked and look worn out after the 2.4km run. The remaining players who stayed were not of the highest skill level, but they all breathe fire in their eyes.
Mr Elson Loh, was the teacher-in-charge and coach for the C’Division team (13-14 years old). He is a disciplinarian with a caring heart. He never looked at a player’s skill level, it was always about their attitude and effort. One of the Wednesday training in early February, Clifford was late for training due to late release for the last lesson of school. Being the more experience and leader of the team, he strolled his way into the team meeting after putting on his basketball kicks. Mr Loh, gave him one of the toughest and most memorable scolding of his life. He was told off about his attitude, that all the skills and ability meant nothing if he did not straighten his attitude. If he doesn’t put in more effort than his team mates than he don’t deserve to be the leader. Mr Loh, knew this kid would have potential to be an amazing player, but he also knew that he has to learnt how to behave like a leader of the team. And attitude is the number 1 most important thing in the team. That session drive into Clifford a deep sense of responsibility not only for his own performance but for his team mates and friends. He have to be better. He wants to be here.
Clifford did not make the team in his first year, as Mr Loh, only selected the secondary 2 players to be in the C Division tournament team. But he went down almost every game, just to watch and learn from the game. He knew he wanted to be there playing, and he knew he need to be better in all façade of the game. And much like what he learnt from the streets, no one will give it to him for free. He has to go earn it. He wants to be here.