HCM CITY — Viet Nam's first-ever professional basketball team, Saigon Heat, have set themselves a target of reaching the four-team playoff round in the AirAsia ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) that kicks off this month.
At a press conference in HCM City, team officials said Tan Binh Gymnasium would be the home pitch and unveiled the team kit and a team of cheerleaders known as the Saigon Hot Girls.
"Saigon Heat not only represents Viet Nam in the ABL but also plays a role in developing basketball in Viet Nam by bringing international professional basketball [here]," Nguyen Bao Hoang, chairman of Saigon Sports Academy (SSA), Saigon Heat's financial backer, said.
Saigon Heat, established by the SSA, a sports training and development outfit, will play their first match against Thailand Slammers on January 15 in Bangkok.
Saigon Heat will play a total of 10 home games and 11 away games in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.
The first home game is against Singapore Slingers on January 25.
"We are getting better every day," coach Robert Newson said.
"With Jonathan Jones and Julius Hodge in the team, we believe we can achieve positive results in our very first season."
Saigon Heat, who have four imported and seven local players, competed in a pre-season tournament in Bangkok last month, but failed to score a single win. But Newson said he had seen significant progress since.
"We learned from our mistakes after each match to improve our game. We were better game after game and actually had a few very tight games there."
The ABL is Southeast Asia's professional basketball league since 2010. This year it features eight teams : two from Thailand and the Philippines and each one from Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and newcomer Viet Nam. — VNS