Vietnamese hoopsters to take on VBA opposition before SEA Games


By Harry Hodge

Todd Purves knows it takes time to build a contender.

And with a men’s national team a scant two years from returning to regional basketball, Vietnam is still feeling its way with the SEA Games approaching fast in Malaysia later this month. Purves, juggling roles as head coach of the VBA’s Hanoi Buffaloes as well as the men’s national team, is therefore treating the team’s upcoming competition as an opportunity to evaluate the state of the game here.

“We don’t have expectations in terms of number of wins and losses, but we expect to represent the country with pride and hard work,” Purves told Sport In Saigon. “Hopefully we can build on what the previous coaches and players have built to give us an opportunity for our strongest showing yet.”

Indeed, the 2017 SEA Games group bears only passing resemblance to the 2015 squad that finished out of the medals with a seventh-place finish. Ho Chi Minh City Wings star Trieu Han Minh and Thang Long Warrior Nguyen Van Hung will enjoy some reinforcements in the form of ABL veterans Horace Nguyen and Stefan Nguyen, who are American and Swedish citizens, respectively. Can Tho Catfish Tam Dinh of the VBA is another expat addition to the squad, which should benefit from having a domestic pro league to develop players since last year. As such, the national team will take on the VBA’s Saigon Heat Aug. 12 and the Wings three days later to get ready for the tournament, with basketball fixtures underway from Aug. 20.

“I’m looking forward to the tune up games with the VBA,” Purves said. “The score will mean nothing to me, but we hope to improve our offensive and defensive execution against new players.

Purves said he’s preaching a team-first mentality, with every player on the floor getting a look. The team will also need to trim its roster before the SEA Games flights, so next weeks games will be critical for players on the bubble.

“I prefer to play a very unselfish passing game, and appreciate that the players are buying into it,” he said.

Both games will be staged at Ho Xuan Huong Stadium in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City. For more information, visit

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Word Magazine August 2017: VBA season 2.0


The Vietnam Basketball Association (VBA) is set to hoop it up for its second season, with new expectations and a new franchise. Words Harry Hodge.

Entrepreneur Henry Nguyen has never been accused of thinking small.

Wearing multiple hats as the co-owner of the Saigon Heat basketball team as well as being a managing partner of the new Los Angeles FC franchise in Major League Soccer, he brings a certain vision to each new venture. And this is translating into a shift about how Vietnamese fans view basketball.

The six-team league has added its newest franchise, the Thang Long Warriors, in the national capital region as a reflection for the appetite for professional basketball in that market, he said.

“(Before the VBA) friends in Hanoi were asking ‘when are we going to get a team up here?’” Nguyen recalled during a chat at his office in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. “Hanoi and Saigon are both big enough to support two sets of fans and it’s always exciting to have an intra-city derby.

“Our ambition over time is that this grows to be an eight-, 10-, 12-, maybe a 16-team league.”

This boom in the game has led to nationwide interest in local squads in Hanoi, Danang, Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho. A dispersal draft for the arrival of the Warriors led to some players moving around, with the Warriors selecting heritage player Justin Young, and acquiring Heat forward Nguyen Van Hung, who will return to the Heat when the ASEAN Basketball League  (ABL) season kicks off at the end of the year.

The defending champion Danang Dragons will still build on the presence of ABL veterans Stefan Nguyen and Horace Nguyen, while the  Can Tho Catfish will key on Tam Dinh and his brother Sang. The rationale was to ensure every franchise has a shot at winning a title every year.

“Five years ago, I looked around and kids were playing soccer and tennis,” Henry Nguyen recalled, reflecting on the growth of the game since 2012 when he brought the Heat’s ABL team together. “It’s important for the league for there to be parity and competitiveness.

The second season of the Vietnam Basketball Association (VBA) is set to get rolling at the conclusion of the SEA Games this month in Malaysia. Several VBA players will be on the national team roster, notably Ho Chi Minh City Wings stars Trieu Han Minh and Nguyen Thanh Nhan, Hanoi Buffalo Nguyen Tien Duong, and Hung of the newly formed Warriors.



BRIEFS: Sizable Vietnam contingent eyes SEA Games glory

Việt Nam will send more than 470 athletes to compete at the 29th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Malaysia in August, according to Vietnam News.

The athletes will be supported by more than 200 coaches, experts and doctors together with thousands of supporters from Vietnam. At the 2017 event, Vietnamese competitors will take part in 32 out of 38 sports. They will meet roughly 6,000 athletes from throughout  the region. The games, ASEAN’s most important sporting festival, will be held from August 19-30. At the previous games in Singapore two years ago, Vietnam finished third with 73 golds. Behind Thailand (95 golds) and the hosts Singapore (84 golds).

First world silver for Vietnamese taekwondo artist

Twenty-year-old taekwondo artist Truong Thi Kim Tuyen has become the first Vietnamese to win a silver medal at the world championships, according to Tuoi Tre.

Tuyen made history at the 2017 Muju WTF World Taekwondo Championships in South Korea even though she lost to South Korean rival Jae-young in the women’s 46-kg final.

The silver medal is a new benchmark for Vietnam’s taekwondo, after Vietnamese athletes had previously only finished as high as third five times over the last 22 years.

Tuyen, ranked 33rd in the world, made her way to the finale after defeating the world’s No. 2, Canadian Yong Yvette, in the qualifiers and the world’s No. 6, Thailand’s Napaporn Charanwat, in the quarterfinals.

Tuyen was born in Vinh Long Province and has had to live away from home since the age of 14 for training in the Danang and Hanoi. At her maiden Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in 2015, she took gold after defeating strong rivals from Thailand and the Philippines.


Young ballers headed for Shanghai

Sixteen of the best junior basketball players in Vietnam have been selected from last week’s Jr. NBA National Training Camp in Ho Chi Minh City to become a 2017 Jr. NBA Vietnam All-Star, and will head to Shanghai with fellow campers from Southeast Asia later this year, according to Tuoi Tre.

The Jr. NBA National Training Camp was part of the U.S. National Basketball Association (NBA)’s three-month Jr. NBA development program in Hanoi, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City. The free program was and supported by local basketball federations, the Consulate General of the United States in Ho Chi Minh City and the Embassy of the United States in Hanoi.

It provides participants with training in the fundamentals of basketball and lessons about the importance of proper nutrition. During the Jr. NBA National Training Camp, the program’s top 64 boys and girls were selected and coached by NBA star Willie Cauley-Stein of the Sacramento Kings.

Young athletes grab ASEAN Schools Games glory

In a first, Vietnam grabbed a gold medal in swimming at the ninth ASEAN Schools Games in Singapore, according to Vietnam News.

The Vietnamese swimmer triumphed in the boys’ 400m individual medley event, as Nguyen Dang Khoa came first with a timing of 4 :34.36 and his teammate Luong Jeremie Loic Nino was second with 4:37.74.

Athletics has always been Việt Nam’s strong point. They did a good job yesterday with three gold, three silver and two bronze medals.

Hoang Thị Minh Hạnh claimed the gold in the girls’ 400m event, clocking 56.11sec.

Vu Thị Ngọc Ha was first in the girls’ long jump with a result of 5.87m. Pham Thuy Hạnh grabbed gold with a 4:47.45 in the girls’ 1,500m event, while teammate Doan Thu Hang was second in the event.

Two other silver medals went to Dang Thị Trang in the girls’ javelin event and to the girls’ 4x100m relay team.

Two bronze medals went to Bui Thị Kim Thoa in the girls’ 400m and Nguyen Long Chu in the high jump.


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Singleton leaves VBA’s Catfish for Heat

VBA season two will begin in August.

By Harry Hodge
The times they are a-changin’ in Vietnamese basketball.
Weeks after the bombshell announcement of Vietnam Basketball Assocation (VBA) and national team head coach Tony Garbelotto leaving SE Asia to coach the Glasgow Rocks franchise, his successor was announced Monday as Can Tho Catfish skipper Dave Singleton.
“It all happened so quick, but I’m happy about it,” Singleton told Sport In Saigon. “I want to thank all the fans for the unwavering support in Can Tho.
“That was my first head coaching job and I truly appreciate all the relationships I made down there.”
Garbelotto also ran the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) Heat franchise, but Singleton said there’s been no decision about that side of the team so far, and that he’s focused on the VBA season. This is understandable, with the domestic league kicking off in roughly a month after August’s SEA Games in Malaysia, while the ABL season is set for its opener toward the end of the year.
Later in the day, the Catfish announced Kevin Yurkus would be taking over the head coaching position vacated by Singleton.

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SAIGON TIMES JUNE 2017: The Kanonos will make you say yes yes to surf rock

By Harry Hodge
During his several years in Saigon’s music scene, Bryon Rudd has been a bit of a shapeshifter.
Well-known for his time as a creative force with experimental music outfit Space Panther, collaborating with local artists and merging numerous influences and styles, Rudd has elected to go for some good old-fashioned rock with his new project, the Kanonos.
“(The band name) Kanonos is because i was wearing a kimono and someone made fun of me,” Rudd admitted. “I said, yeah I’m in the kimonos man! And realized it was stupid but Kanonos sounded cool.
“It’s a word I made up for like a bad idea. You know you shouldn’t do it but you already know you are going to do it.”

The themes in the new Kanonos release, “Play The Hits”, mirror these bad decisions. Try to shake the melody from “Drunk Days” and you’ll find yourself humming it for days. Rudd shows good range here, going from fist-pumping arena rock to more soulful pondering. “This Is Me Dead” is another earworm that will burrow into your brain, with blazing guitars getting you moving.
Teaming with fellow guitar star Nick Simon, Rudd described the act as “a two-piece band that sounds louder than a four-piece” and will get you to move with their “dance-along surfy vibes.”

Fitting then that their next big gig will be on the beach. The Kanonos are playing with James and the Van Der Beeks at the Last Chance Dance on June 17 at Pogo Beach Bar, 138 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, in Mui Ne. Check out the event’s Facebook page for more information.

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Sport in Saigon/May 2017: Hanoi ballers rejoice as Thang Long Warriors added to VBA 2.0

18519483-283099518768291-7856548329217061649-n-1494856767012-crop-1494856778695By Harry Hodge

There they grow again! Capitalizing on the groundswell of popularity across the country during the first season of the Vietnam Basketball Association (VBA), the fledgling league has opted to expand in the national capital region as it heads into season two.

While it’s early days yet for the squad, new head coach Lee Tao Dana of the Thang Long Warriors was ready to offer his insights only one day into his new job. He’s already hit the ground running out of necessity, with the Vietnamese national team playing at the SEABA tournament in the Philippines and the SEA Games in August, with VBA preseason action set to begin in late August.

“I’m very much looking forward to coaching in the VBA and especially with the Warriors,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do and being that many of the better local players are already signed with other teams we will really have our work cut out in recruiting local players.

“But, I’m looking forward to the challenge and in building from the ground up. It’s a great opportunity.”

Prior to being bench boss for the Warriors, Dana spent time in the Thai Basketball Super League, coaching at the college level in the US, as well as time in the NBA D-league as an assistant and a role with the Golden State Warriors. He admitted his main priority at the moment is building a new roster from scratch.

“We’re working on signing local players but it’s early on, I just started yesterday,” he said. “But I hope to bring in some local players within a week or so.”

He added that he expects to have a healthy rivalry with the crosstown Buffaloes, adding he’s very familiar with their head coach Todd Purves.

“The appetite for basketball seems strong judging from the fans I’ve seen at the Hanoi Buffaloes games,” he said.  “I hope we can provide a great atmosphere for the fans here with basketball and entertainment.

“Maybe we can create a healthy rivalry with the Buffaloes. Coach Todd and I are good friends so it won’t be too nasty.”

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Lions roar to semifinal sweep of Saigon Heat


By Harry Hodge
David vs. Goliath. Frodo vs. Sauron. The Saigon Heat vs. the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions.
The comparisons could go on forever; the top-scoring team in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) led by record-setting scorer Marcus Elliott against a Vietnamese side that crept into the ABL playoffs in the final berth. And despite some first-half heroics in Game 2 of their playoff semifinal, there would be no fairy-tale ending for the Heat, losing 86-79 and being swept out for the third consecutive season.
Hong Kong simply had too much firepower, as witnessed in their Game One spanking of Saigon in a 114-74 defeat that shattered ABL playoff records for margin of victory. In Game 2 it was former New Jersey Nets big man Josh Boone getting it done for Hong Kong, with 27 points to lead all scorers. ABL journeyman Tyler Lamb was not far behind with 26 points.
That said, the Heat made it a lively affair in front of a boisterous home crowd, playing for the first time at CIS Stadium in four weeks. Saigon brought some stout defence and capitalized on some early Lions miscues and surged to a 48-43 halftime lead. Even then Saigon had some dramatic moments, with key sparkplug Lenny Daniel taking an ugly spill and Vietnamese-Swedish marksman Stefan Nguyen left bloodied by an errant elbow. Daniel had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the home side. But as the game wore on, Hong Kong’s arsenal of weapons was too strong to overcome.
“We were ashamed after what happened (in Game 1),” a subdued Nguyen said. “We looked at ourselves in the mirror.”
He went on to say overcoming the team’s 1-7 early start also provided plenty of adversity for the team to overcome before they embarked on a remarkable 7-3 run to squeeze into the playoff picture. It was a sentiment echoed by teammate Moses Morgan.
“It takes a lot of guts to come back from 1-7,” he said. “We took (the Game 1 loss) personal.
“We wanted to come out and play hard.”
Still, at the end of the day, the Heat see themselves bounced in the semifinals. Head coach Tony Garbelotto said the loss summed up a season of might-have-beens, looking back at the injury woes the team dealt with, notably marquee offseason signing Christien Charles only suiting up for a handful of games.
“I’m proud of the players, playing as hard as they did,” a dejected Garbelotto said. “We’re all prideful individuals.
“We’ll close this up and see where we’ll go next.”
Indeed, for Vietnamese ballers, the SEA Games and VBA season are looming in the not-too-distant future. But for fans of the ABL, it’s difficult to imagine Hong Kong not hoisting the championship later this month.

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Heat bench get minutes in season-ending loss


By Harry Hodge
For the Singapore Slingers and Saigon Heat, the final game of the regular season provided rest for some and rare playing time for others.
With both teams having clinched playoff berths, the Slingers’ 86-71 victory would have no consequence on postseason rankings. The Heat would end the season with an 8-12 record, locked into a first-round ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) series with the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions.
Superstar Lenny Daniel got a rare night off for the Heat, allowing former Olympian Nguyen Van Hung a rare ABL start. The tae kwon do master is also expected to play a key role for Vietnam’s national team at the SEA Games in Malaysia this August, and put in a workmanlike effort with six points and seven rebounds in 31 minutes. Bui Quoc Tan, another domestic star, logged more than 13 minutes of playing time and potted five points.
Slingers star Justin Howard dominated from start to finish, with an eye-popping 39 points and 19 rebounds. Singaporean Leon Kwek turned heads with a 13-point performance, while Xavier Alexander matched his 13 points and raised 10 rebounds for a double-double. Jordan Henriquez paced the Heat with 25 points and 13 rebounds.
The Heat came out flat before a packed house at Ho Xuan Huong Stadium, normally the home of their crosstown rivals in the VBA, the Ho Chi Minh City Wings. Daniel was notable by his absence, with the Heat sluggish on offence and only managing a 29-point first half. Singapore never trailed throughout the game, with former Heat big man Howard scoring at will.
“I wound up at the four-spot,” said Moses Morgan in the reshuffled lineup, who finished with six points at a different position. “(Nguyen Van) Hung got some good minutes.
Morgan said that the team would look different in Hong Kong, keying on Lions’ stars Marcus Elliott and Tyler Lamb. Game one will be April 5 in Hong Kong, with the second game April 8 at CIS Stadium in Saigon.

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