Hoops, Zii Jia switches courts

Versatile: Lee Zii Jia at the basketball court in SMJK Keat Hwa. Zii Jia is world No. 14 and currently the best player in the country.

PETALING JAYA: Lee Zii Jia is a badminton player, and the men’s singles gold medallist at the recent SEA Games. But away from the limelight, he’s on another court – a basketball court.

With the national team having broken camp for a short break, the 21-year-old is pursuing his passion for basketball during the off-season to stay fit.

He shared a short video of himself on his social media, training with the secondary school team of SMJK Keat Hwa in Alor Setar, Kedah.

“Actually, my parents are coaches for the school team here.

“They are ex-national basketball players, ” said Zii Jia.

“My mum – Leow Siet Peng – played in two SEA Games for the country and my dad – Lee Chee Hin – was the best national young player at the age of 16 before a knee injury forced him to retire.

“Now that I’m back here for the holidays, I want to take a total break from badminton and forget about it. By training with my mother and father and their students, I can do that and also stay fit at the same time.”

Zii Jia added that his favourite National Basketball Association (NBA) team is the Los Angeles Lakers and his favourite player is three-time NBA champion and four time Most Valuable Player, Lebron James.

“Yes, if I have time I will watch the Lakers matches and it’s always amazing to watch Lebron and what he can do with a basketball on the court.

“I have a few Lakers jerseys and also Lebron’s shoes.”

When asked what made him choose badminton over basketball, given the family tradition, he replied: “A lot of people ask me this question but to be honest, I think it was badminton that chose me rather than me choosing it.

“I seemed to excel in badminton more than basketball and I went in that direction.”

At world No. 14 and currently the best player in the country, it was definitely the right choice for Zii Jia.

With the final stretch in the fight for a place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics resuming in January and ending in April, the break is a much needed one for the youngster.

“I still have fun and enjoy playing basketball. Playing with my parents’ students is something different for me.

“When I go back to badminton, I feel refreshed and energised.

“This time away from badminton will do me a lot of good before the last push for Tokyo 2020.”

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