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.



About hodgedude

I'm a Canadian journalist and teacher, most recently living in Edmonton and Toronto, now located in Ho Chi Minh City. Graduate of Concordia University in Montreal. I've taught English in S. Korea, pulled rickshaws in Canada, taught at a Taiwanese language boot camp, edited newspapers in China and played a French-speaking Spanish colonel on Vietnamese TV. I also play Australian football. Pick up a copy of issue one of my independent comic, "Getting Lucky," at Happy Harbor Comics in Edmonton, the Comic Hunter in Moncton, New Brunswick, and the Spotted Cow Pub, 111 Bui Vien, District 1, Saigon.
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