The Hanoi Buffaloes, one of the capital’s two Vietnam Basketball Association (VBA) teams, held a tryout on Saturday, giving young ballers the chance to get put through their paces by professional players and coaches, and perhaps even win a spot on the team.

On the rise

Basketball as a sport is on the up in Vietnam, as evidenced by the regularly packed VBA stadiums, despite the league only being four years old.

Youngsters up and down the country love the sport and in big cities like Hanoi or HCM City, public courts can be booked out for weeks at a time by keen ballers.

For Hoang Ngoc Quang, the tryout was the chance of a lifetime.

“I think I need to show my best to make a good impression on the club’s recruiters,” he said.

“I hope to be noticed by the recruiters and selected for the team after the tryout.”

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Hanoi Buffaloes point guard Bui Thai Ha dishes out some coaching to youngsters at the tryout. VNS Photo Dang Nguyen

Quang added that he’s played the game since the eighth grade and that the teenager has played almost every single day since then.

While all the entrants to the tryout will have been hoping to be picked up by the team and become pros, the truth is few will make the grade, but that doesn’t mean the day will have been a waste.

VBA teams nationwide have been holding similar events and while the stated goal may be picking up some diamonds in the rough, it’s clear the league wants to make sure it stays grounded and part of the thriving basketball culture in the country.

The VBA’s top players aren’t inaccessible superstars who hide from their fans behind PR managers and tinted windows, they’re part of a boots-on-the-ground effort to grow the game in Vietnam.

This was clearly in evidence on Sunday, as some of the top Buffaloes players put the young hopefuls through their paces.

Young attendee Nguyen Thanh Nam told Việt Nam News he knew he hadn’t played well enough to make the team, but still came away pleased with the experience.

“My performance today was not good enough, I still made some technical mistakes,” he said.

 

“I hope that professional teams like this will organise many more tryouts so that we will have the opportunity to participate,” he said, before adding, “through the tryout, I met a lot of Hanoi Buffaloes’ players. I met Huy Hoang and he taught me a lot more about dribbling techniques.”

Take it from a pro

The established players at the tryout had plenty of advice for their young charges, having gone through some of the same things themselves.

Bui Thai Ha has played four seasons in the VBA as a point guard and he got his start at a similar tryout.

“When I started playing in the VBA, I also participated in events like this, along with my old club Thanglong Warriors and the current club Hanoi Buffaloes,” he told Việt Nam News.

He added he was thrilled to see such enthusiasm from the youngsters, even in the sweltering heat inside the gym.

The Buffaloes’ point guard Sang Dinh may have taken a different road to the VBA as a ‘heritage player’, but the Vietnamese-American said that the steps to success are the same for everyone.

“We can see who’s a hard worker by the way that they’re showing their effort out here, effort and energy,” he said.

“We just base it off of effort and energy and as a basketball player you can see potential when you know it. So that’s what we’re looking at here we’re trying to gauge who can come here and grow.”

Dinh added that in his time playing in the country, the level of play in Vietnam has dramatically increased, especially among young players.

“I’ve been playing here for five years so from then to now the level has changed tremendously. Kids weren’t used to playing one on one, you know kind of like shy. But as the basketball scene has evolved the kids have evolved as well,” he said.

The team’s assistant coach Bui Thanh Binh echoed those sentiments.

“Vietnamese basketball in recent years has developed very well, pro clubs, basketball clubs in elementary schools to universities and amateur clubs have developed very well, the number of people participating in basketball is increasing day by day,” he explained.  VNS

Peter Cowan & Dang Nguyen

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