Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — Saigon Heat will start their ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) this weekend, targeting a better place than their previous play-offs.
This is the sixth season for the Vietnamese first professional team at the regional tournament. In the last three years, they qualified for the play-offs but failed to win or advance to the championship round.
“It is now time for the team to reach the next level, our Saigon Heat fans deserve that. In order to do that, tough decisions need to be made and a new culture and direction must be set,” Connor Nguyen, the Heat’s owner and general manager, said sharing his vision about the team in his letter to the staff and fans.
The Heat, who wrapped up their domestic Việt Nam Basketball Association League last month, will host Formosa Dreamers from Chinese Taipei at their home turf of CIS Arena in HCM City on December 9.
The Heat managers have changed many things to achieve their goal. The first one is the arrival of coach Kyle Julius, who is considered one of Canada’s most experienced and talented basketball minds.
He is expected to “bring strong leadership and a championship experience, mentality and standard.”
Power forward Travele Jones and point guard Akeem Scott have joined the team as world imports.
“Akeem Scott embodies that completely. He lives that way, he plays that way. In my entire playing days and coaching so far, he is the best player that I have ever been around. His leadership is incredible, his skill is very high and his work ethic is amazing,” said Julius, who has signed familiar face Viet David Arnold.
Shooting guard Arnold plays a vital role in every match of the team. He also contributed to Saigon Heat’s three consecutive ABL play-offs achievement. He made a VBA record of 13 assists per game along with scoring 25 points and having nine rebounds in a match beating former champions Danang Dragons.
Being idolised by most basketball fans in Việt Nam, he is famous for his speedy, skilful and spectacular scoring style.
“I think David will play very well in our new system. He has a lot of potential and a good attitude. I think David together with Scott is a powerful combination. Scott can lead David and make him better in long term. I think this will be a successful year for David. I’m going to try to put him physically in the best shape. I’m excited for David and the opportunity that lies ahead,” Julius said.
Julius also recruited Nguyễn Huỳnh Hải and Lê Ngọc Tú as they made a good impression by their outstanding performance in the VBA.
According to statistics, Tú scored 14 points per game, had 4,91 rebounds per game and his 3-point percentage reached 44. He also holds the record of the most points in a game by a local player with 30 points. He was awarded the title ‘Local MVP’ in the last VBA season.
Being an experienced shooting guard, Hải who has been showing steady performances in every game, will enjoy his first time with the Heat at the ABL.
The Heat have nearly one month to work together for the tournament.
“With regards to the new culture, I have a system that I trust and believe in. It is about putting players’ work ethics and their characters first, about having players who can put the team first, but at the same time they must be highly skilled. Work ethics, team first and skills!” Julius said on saigonheat.com.
The Heat’s first rival Dreamers take part in the ABL for the first time this season.
Bannering their maiden year is ABL veteran Lenny Daniel. The 2m forward spent his first two years with the Heat where he showcased his athleticism and versatility. In the 2016-17 season, Daniel put up 23.4 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks, helping the Heat reach the semi-finals.
Teaming up with Daniel is Jaleel Cousins from the US and James Forrester from the Philippines.
Other players to be watched are diminutive guard Luo Jun Quan, forward Charles Barratt, and local Cheng Chi Kuan.
While December 9’s game will be the Heat’s debut, the Dreamers suffered a 73-94 loss to CLS Knights of Indonesia in their opening game on November 18.
The ABL 2017 sees a record nine teams, up from six last season. They are divided into three groups and will play a total of 20 games — 10 at home and 10 away — over the course. — VNS