Bright future ahead for Vietnamese basketball

March 19, 2023 - 08:00
In Việt Nam, basketball is a popular sport and has been loved by many people for a long time, but the development of Vietnamese basketball only started about five years ago.

By Xuân Đăng

In Việt Nam, basketball is a popular sport loved by many people for a long time, but the development of Vietnamese basketball only started about five years ago.

If you are a follower of Vietnamese basketball, you can see the great development of this sport over the past year in Việt Nam.

From the titles won at the last SEA Games 31 in Hà Nội, to the achievements of the Saigon Heat in the ABL tournament, or Trương Thảo Vy (half of Trương twins) showing an impressive performance at the women's NCAA competition, to the fact that the first Vietnamese-origin player played for a team in the NBA.

The above reasons help Vietnamese basketball fans have faith in the development of national basketball.

Those who came to the Thanh Trì Gymnasium in Hà Nội to watch the women's national basketball team play in the SEA Games 31 last year, will surely never forget the enthusiasm that the arena stands had.

More specifically, they will not be able to forget the moments that the Trương twins brought.

And in recent weeks, Trương Thảo Vy, aka Kaylynne Trương, has brought similar emotions to audiences at the NCAA women's basketball in the US.

Trương Thảo Vy, aka Kaylynne Trương (14), having a great season with Gonzaga University in NCAA. Photo Gonzaga Women's Basketball

This season she has played 32 games for Gonzaga, averaging 16.1 points a game, 2.9 rebounds, 5 assists and 42.3 per cent of three-pointers.

She also holds the record for most three-pointers in a single season, basketing 93 shots.

Thanks to those stats, Kaylynne Trương won West Coast Conference Player of the Year and helped the team clinch a share of the West Coast Conference title and enter the NCAA tournament.

In the last game of the regular season against the BYU Cougars, she scored 14 points. The team got a boost with the return of starting point guard Kayleigh Trương, who only got to start four games with her twin sister this season before injuring a foot. She scored six points.

The Trương twins’ return means Gonzaga will be a heavy favourite in the tournament.

Currently, the duo is still focusing on playing for Gonzaga, but both are still open to the possibility of returning to Việt Nam to compete in the upcoming SEA Games.

Although the return of this duo has not yet been guaranteed, what they brought to Vietnamese basketball, especially the inspiration for the girls playing basketball, has been amazing.

If they are able to play, the Vietnamese women's team will be a strong candidate for the gold medal at the coming SEA Games 32 in Cambodia.

Meanwhile, the men's team will have its first chance to get an NBA-level player, Jaylin Williams, to play for the team.

Jaylin Williams was selected by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round of the 2022 NBA draft with the 34th overall pick, becoming the first player of Vietnamese descent to be drafted in the NBA.

"Honestly, it's amazing," Williams said. "I didn't know that I was going to be first until a couple of weeks before the draft. It's honestly crazy, with how long the NBA has been around and how big it is over there. Just the love that I've gotten from Việt Nam and people who are supporting me from that area, it's crazy.

Jaylin Williams becomes the first player of Vietnamese origin to be drafted in the NBA. Photo

At the beginning of the regular season, he took time to mature and grow his game at the NBA G-League level, including posting a triple-double for the OKC Blue, before he was recalled into NBA action due to injuries the Thunder suffered.

Williams is improving his skill set day by day playing for the Thunder, and the Vietnamese-born star just reached a memorable milestone in his career.

In a game against the Houston Rockets, Williams had eight points and 16 rebounds, helping the Thunder have an overwhelming 133-98 victory.

Williams' 16 rebounds is the second most by a rookie player in the history of the Thunder.

In recent games, Williams is gradually gaining the trust of the Thunder coaching staff.

Since the NBA began tracking “hustle stats” in 2016, no one has drawn charges at a higher rate than Williams, who draws a charge every 21.8 minutes of play.

If his current performance can be maintained, Williams' future will become very bright in the NBA.

In the game against the Warriors last week, Williams produced a career-high 15 points, six rebounds, two assists and one steal in the 137-128 victory. He took 6-of-10 in the field, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range, in 27 minutes of work.

“One of the things I respect about him is he has been confident from the rip. He has been like that from the beginning,” Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said after the game against the Warriors.

He has appeared in 36 games, making 23 starts, averaging 5.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.

Williams is such a fun, unique player. He's not racking up blocks or steals as a rim-protector, but he rebounds, takes charges and positions himself well on defence for a rookie.

He'll be a big part of this stretch run for a Thunder team capable of contending.

“I’ve been getting a lot of support from the Vietnamese community,” Williams told The Oklahoman.

“When I see people out, they always come up to me. If you see people in my jersey during the game, most of the time it’s Vietnamese people. It’s really awesome,” he said.

Thuận Nguyễn, who’s running to become Oklahoma City’s first Asian-American city councilman, said he recently read a Vietnamese news story about Williams, signaling J-Will’s impact on the other side of the world.

“A lot of people in our community are really excited to see him engage more, play more, and we’re just enthusiastic to have an Asian-American basketball player in Oklahoma City,” Nguyễn said.

In addition to the achievements of players of Vietnamese descent abroad, domestic players are also making great achievements.

For the first time in the team's history, the HCM City-based Saigon Heat won the top spot at ABL at the end of the Regular Season.

Local players such as Phú Vinh, Kim Bản, Minh An, Khoa Trần, and Anh Kiệt have shown impressive performances to help the team achieve high results.

It can be seen that the achievements that Vietnamese basketball has achieved in recent times are really impressive.

It is too early to dream of higher levels, but the current achievements are a solid foundation for Vietnamese basketball in the future. VNS