KUALA LUMPUR: Nur Izzati Yaakob has one dream this year: to help the women’s basketball team defend the gold medal in the KL SEA Games in August.
The experienced 27-year-old, who skippered the national team to the 2015 SEA Games triumph in Singapore, also hopes to inspire more non-Chinese to take up basketball.
“It’s going to be tougher to win the gold this time. When we won in Singapore, we were only the challengers ... now we’re the defending champions,” said Izzati.
“As captain, there is a huge responsibility on me to lead the team.
“There will be a few more younger players joining the team ... I hope they can quicky adapt to our strategy and playing style.
“We played against the Philippines in two training matches over the weekend. We won one and lost one ... they’re still not at full strength yet, but they are definitely physically stronger than us.”
Izzati plays as a point guard and is one of two non-Chinese cagers in the team. The other one is centre R. Kalaimathi.
“It’s tough for most non-Chinese players because there is a communication barrier. I didn’t face such problems because I studied in a Chinese school and I can speak Mandarin well,” said Izzati.
For now, Izzati hopes to lead the team to a fruitful outing in an invitational tournament – against seven university and prefecture teams – in Yamagata, Japan, from May 8-19.
“This will be our second overseas stint this year. We went to Perth in March for 10 days and played eight matches there ... winning five,” said national coach Yoong Sze Yuin.
“The Perth stint allowed the players to work on the physical aspect of their game.
“Now, we’re hoping to work on our speed in Yamagata.”
After Yamagata, the women’s team have two more tournaments – at the Maba Stadium from June 13-17 and in Taiwan from July 25-30 – to prepare for the SEA Games.