SAIGONEER: Heat coach Julius talks personnel moves before ABL final rosters announced

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By Harry Hodge

Not many professional basketball coaches guide a team to a league title, and then bolt to lead a new franchise on the other side of the planet.

But Kyle Julius is not like most coaches.

Hot on the heels of steering the London Lightning to a National Basketball League (NBL) Canada title, Julius hopped a plane to fill the bench boss role for the Saigon Heat of the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL), recently vacated by Great Britain national team coach Tony Garbelotto. Julius, whose father is a coach as well, has picked up a wealth of knowledge about the game from his time playing in the NCAA and Europe, as well as on the Canadian men’s national team under Leo Rautins and current Phoenix Suns coach Jay Triano.

“I knew that a whole new challenge would be healthy for my career at this point,” said Julius, who looks like he could still jump out on the floor and start shooting. “I knew coming to Vietnam would be a tremendous challenge for me, but it would be very rewarding.

“I want to make the fans proud.”

Julius has inherited a team that has made the playoffs in consecutive years, but failed to win a postseason game in the franchise’s short history. He said Moses Morgan looks to have endless potential, as well as the impending announcement of a returning David Arnold. But he’s also made some bold moves so far, waiving leading scorer and fan favourite Lenny Daniel as well as former ABL MVP Christien Charles. He’s recruited Jamaican national team member Akeem Scott, having become acquainted with the guard during his time in London.

And while he acknowledged that fans would certainly be disappointed to learn of Daniel’s departure, Julius says Scott will be a fan favourite “by the end of the first quarter.”

“He’s been an all-star all over the world,” he said, bullish on signing Scott in time for the ABL season. “Akeem Scott is the toughest and best leader I’ve ever been around.

“He’ll embody what we want to do as an organization. Everywhere he goes, he wins.”

While Charles was a signing that backfired for the Heat, leading to a carousel of big men to occupy his position during a season plagued with injuries, Daniel’s release raised some eyebrows for longtime Heat fans. And Julius said another major signing is in the works, which with Charles’ departure one could surely surmise will be an import big man before ABL rosters are announced this Friday.

He also arrived in Vietnam knowing that while the Heat has some of the most passionate fans in the league, they’re growing restless with the team’s perennial first round flameouts when the regular season ends. Julius said they can expect an open, up-tempo team, characteristic of the squads he built in London that led the NBL in scoring during his time there. As for the league, he said it was definitely true to say that teams would go as far as their depth would take them. To this end, he identified members of the VBA Heat like Huynh Hai and Ngoc Tu as players that have bright futures ahead of them.

“This is a league based on how good your locals are,” he said, noting the local talent Hong Kong brought in their title run last year. “(But) I do think there’s a fair amount of parity too.”

We’ll see how it all shakes out for this new version of the Heat as they tip off the ABL season Dec. 9 at CIS Stadium in District 7.

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SPORT IN SAIGON, SEPTEMBER: Heat hook up Canadian bench boss

 

SAIGON HEAT

By Harry Hodge
So for a team playing a game invented by a Canadian playing at the Canadian International School stadium, you may as well hire a Canadian head coach.
So that’s what the Saigon Heat did.
Kyle Julius, a former member of the Canadian national team who took the London Lightning of Canada’s National Basketball League to a championship, is looking to bring that same playoff pedigree to the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL). His time with the Lightning was impressive, with a 61-19 regular season record and a 21-8 mark in the playoffs. The 37-year-old former All-Canadian from the University of Guelph, and also played for the Furman University Paladins in the NCAA. His professional playing career took him to Italy before returning to North America, and he ended up playing for the Lightning before becoming their coach.
“The foreign to domestic player ratio will be a challenge for me early, because I simply have to take the right amount of time toget to know each and every player and how they work together,” he conceded. “I have to judge them as people and basketball players and then I will need the time to evaluate the team as a whole.
“I think the style of play and the approach to the game I would like to implement should generate some success and definitely make our players better players right form the start.”
From studying the ABL, he concluded players around the league play extremely hard and there is a high level of skill, and that support from the fans is tremendous. He’ll inherit a squad with a group that’s worked together for a while, with imports like Lenny Daniel, heritage players like Moses Morgan and David Arnold, and domestic talent like Nguyen Van Hung.
“The main goal is to get better everyday,” he said. “The next goal is to outwork our opponents, we want to be in the best shape and be able to be the more energetic and the more physical team night in and night out.
“Lastly, I want the fans to be proud of the way we play and the way we carry ourselves as a team and organization.”

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“Development H#ll” for sportswriters

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Trying to get a basketball book done has been one of the toughtest things I’ve dealt with here in Vietnam. Working for a publishing house that makes educational materials, the production of books is more or less greenlit already, and it’s simply a question of which schools/enterprises will buy X number of copies. But trying to break into the sports book field has proven to be a massive headache.

Publishing as a whole has changed dramatically since I graduated from journalism school a couple of decades ago… The Internet has proven to be a source of endless content, of varying degrees of quality, and the traditional print industry has taken a hit. Having spent more than 15 years writing and editing for newspapers and magazines, I can see how wariness has crept in to free up any kind of money for untested projects. In Vietnam at the moment, there are practically no locally produced sports books…. Just translations of Manchester United books and the like.

As such, it’s an unknown quantity. And no one wants to invest time or money on the unknown.

The answer to everything these days seems to be crowdfunding. I wrote an earlier ebook with no promotion/backing/or printed copies, and it’s as simple as uploading it to Amazon. No, really. The immediacy of it is the nicest part. There is also little doubt as to its readership: Not many. Promotion is still a massive part of the book world, especially when anybody can get a Smashwords account and upload whatever they churned out.

I approached the other parties involved in this venture in October… We’re now closing in on September and things don’t really seem to have progressed. I definitely need the backing of one party for anything to proceed. The other may have written itself out of the equation if they just make it too difficult to work with.

All to say the struggle is not over — I am confident this manuscript will be available sometime in the near future. Whether it’s with all the current stakeholders remains to be seen. Waiting on multiple parties to make up their minds makes an impatient guy like me grind my teeth… Some streamlining may make liftoff possible.

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Vietnamese hoopsters to take on VBA opposition before SEA Games

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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.

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Word Magazine August 2017: VBA season 2.0

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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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