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 saigonheat.com.