Viet Nam’s first-ever professional basketball team is aiming high when it will compete for the first time in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) competition in January.
Saigon Heat has been training at Lanh Binh Thang Gymnasium (District 11) for four weeks under experienced British coach Robert Newson. They have set themselves an ambitious goal at the ABL.
“We are not going to the ABL to lose. We do not know what will happen,” he added.
“We sense we can compete because we have top players on the team, and the Vietnamese players are getting better and better every day.”
“Preparations are going OK. Everybody is working hard and we have a long way to go, and not very much time. But we will try our best and see where we are in a few weeks’ time,” Newson said.
The British said the team would also welcome two American professional basketball players Jonathan Jones and Julius Melvin Hodge this weekend.
Jones is 32 years old and 2.11m in height and has played for professional basketball leagues in Hungary and South Korea, while Hodge is 28 years old and 2.01m and has played in the American NBA.
“Jones plays centre and has been doing very well in Europe, while Hodges has played in the NBA and some very high leagues in Europe,” Newson said.
Besides Jones and Hodge, the team also includes John Smith of the Philippines and Cambodian-American Sopheoun Oeun, and seven local players from Soc Trang, Joton, Binh Thuan and Air Force teams.
“The size and fitness are very big factors affecting the performance of the team. But Vietnamese players are in good shape and well-conditioned. The problem is their size and basketball ability,” he said.
The ABL, to be played from January through June 2012, will see eight teams from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Viet Nam.
Each of the teams is allowed to have two international players and three regional players.
Saigon Heat will play a total of 21 games (10 home and 11 away).
Saigon Heat was launched in October by Saigon Sports Academy, a training academy for multiple sports, with the aim of unlocking basketball potential in Viet Nam.