Our new, revamped UM website has been launched. To browse the latest news of UM, please visit www.umac.mo.
‘Macao’s Yao Ming’ Lai Ka Tong: I will be a semi-professional basketball player after graduation
Source: My UM
At a height of 1.93 metres, Lai Ka Tong was already a rising basketball star in middle school. At age 14, he was selected to enter the Macao Team. He has represented Macao at various international competitions, including the World University 3x3 Basketball Championship held last year (where his team entered the quarter-final), the Asian University 3x3 Basketball Championship (where his team was the first runner-up), and the Macao Inter -varsity Basketball Championship as a member of the UM Basketball Team (where they once again won the championship). Because of his height and his passion for basketball, this shy young man has been dubbed ‘Macao’s Yao Ming’ in the media.
First Time Crying over a Victory
Lai is currently a fourth-year student from the Department of Management and Marketing. Forseeing that this year would be his final year at UM, he was especially diligent in his training for the Macao Inter-varsity Basketball Championship held at the end of last year. To prepare for the match, the team increased their training times to four times a week. When training venue was not available, they would get up very early and meet in the sports complex at seven. ‘More people would come and they would be more punctual than usual,’ he says. ‘After the training, we would also run many laps around the basketball court. It was very intensive, and we had never worked that hard.’ When they won the championship, Lai, overcome with excitement, hugged his teammates and cried.
Goal: Playing at CUBA National
Winning the championship qualified the UM team for the CUBA league to be held later this year. This will be Lai’s fourth appearance at the CUBA league, and he has high hopes for his team. ‘I hope we can enter the top six in the southwest region and qualify for the national competition,’ he says. ‘This year, the average height of our team is comparable to those of other teams, and we have the added advantage of being fast, so this year is the best year for us.’ Asked about the disadvantages, he says: ‘Athletes from our rival teams were all admitted to their universities because of their athletic talents, and they receive professional training every day, while we only train three times a week. To prepare for CUBA, I could take up to five times of training a week, but that’s the limit, because after all we have classes to attend. ’
Electric Height-adjustable Basketball Hoop
Playing basketball on the old campus was an unforgettable experience for Lai. There weren’t many practice venues on the old campus, so they usually had to wait for the women’s team to finish. They only had two hours to practice. When the time was up, the basketball hoop automatically went up and the lights automatically went off. So even if they wanted to practise a few more shots they couldn’t. ‘We often had to pack up our stuff in the dark, which was both annoying and funny,’ he says with a wry smile.
‘Now things are much better on the new campus. We have our own practice venue. On the weekends, we can also invite our friends to play on the outdoor courts.’
After moving to the new campus in his second year, Lai and his teammate Lam Teng Long became roommates in Lui Che Woo College, and later, best buddies. ‘We shared the same room, practiced basketball together, played at competitions together, sometimes even went to classes together,’ he says. The rapport they built in daily life extends to the basketball court. ‘We are very in sync when playing basketball. We can understand each other’s thoughts without verbal communication. And we will also help each other out.’ The upcoming graduation saddens Lai because it will mean less opportunities to play basketball with his favourite buddy. ‘I will spend the first year after graduation mostly in Hong Kong as a semi-professional player. I will miss our times together, but I also know we will both work hard,’ he says.
The Men’s Basketball Team has a great vibe; it doesn’t take long for a new member to feel a sense of belonging. Lai cites his partner post player as an example. ‘He is just a freshman, but he plays very well. What I like the most about him is his willingness to work hard. I often see him training even during non-training hours,’ he says. As a senior member, Lai often reminds new members to work extra hard to earn the opportunity to play at competitions instead of complaining about the coach not giving them any chance.
‘My hero is definitely Yao Ming.’
’My biggest hero is definitely Yao Ming, because everyone calls me “Macao’s Yao Ming”,’ he says. ‘I try to imitate him and learn from him,’ Lai says the best local basketball players can still be in their prime in their 30s. ‘I will always love basketball, and I will keep playing it until at least 35,’ he says.