Thai Am Legend: Thai-Foreigners and the Future of Thailand Basketball

Almost a month ago, I had just published my preview for this TBL season. I was pretty sure I had all information to be prepared. I was sure that I was ready.

A few hours after I released my article, I picked up my phone and I found out how little I knew.

“Yo. I just saw your article,” a source had called my over the phone. “Did you know that Moses Morgan is actually Half-Thai?”

อ่านบทความเป็นภาษาไทยได้ ที่นี่

The idea that there are Thai-Ams (or Thai-Americans) or Thai-Foreigns out there isn’t that hard to picture. Love finds itself all over the world and it isn’t unimaginable for a Thai to find love with a someone else of a different nationality. I actually have had one particular Thai-Am basketball player on my radar for a while (more on him later) and we have a Thai-Foreigner who has been the face of Thailand basketball for years.

The thing that makes Moses Morgan’s case so intriguing is that it is a rare case for a basketball player with significant experience in a high level of basketball (in Morgan’s case, NCAA Division 1 Basketball) to come play in Thailand. Not as an import, but as a local player.

Morgan might not have been a superstar at the collegiate level but he had a solid role and he played it out. He played for three years at Depaul for the Blue Devils before transferring to play at Cal State Fullerton for the Titans in his senior year. He played the role of a long-range gunner and did well shooting around 30% for his NCAA career.

Moses Morgan, Left. (Picture Credit: Dalje.com)
Moses Morgan, Left. (Picture Credit: Dalje.com)

He was the 29th ranked small forward in the entire country of the United Sates of America (as per ESPNU) out of high school.

Yet here he is, playing in the TBL for Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA).

That’s a weird turn of events to say the very least.


As Thai basketball fans, we all remember Coach Joe “Jellybean” Bryant. He coached the Bangkok Cobras and the Chang Thai Slammers of the ABL. Players improved leaps and bounds under Coach Joe before he left to coach in Japan. It turns out that Coach Joe wasn’t completely done with Thailand Basketball.

Picture Credit: Chalinee Thirasupa
Picture Credit: Chalinee Thirasupa

“Him and my dad are really good friends,” Moses Morgan says of Joe Bryant in a conversation with me. “I’ve been knowing him for some years now.”

And it was a pretty good thing for Thailand basketball that papa Winston Morgan were good friends with Joe Bryant.

“My dad came across a few people who mentioned to him that if I was Thai, I could get my passport to play as a local here. My dad reached out to Joe Bryant because he knew he had been doing some work out here as a coach,” Moses said as he explained his path to PEA. “(My Dad) asked if (Coach Joe) knew any team that wanted players. That’s how I ended up partnering up with Pete Aphaisuwan and that’s how I ended up with PEA.”

Moses barely looks Thai and he even looks a bit like John Wall (who is surely not Thai). He’s 6-6, which is a height only a handful of Thai people reach. It’s really hard to believe that Moses is “Thai”.

“I can count from one to ten, say thank you, and say hello,” Morgan says after I ask if he can speak Thai. “But that’s it.”

When I ask him about his favorite Thai food he says that he loves sticky rice and beef jerky, which his mother cooked for him regularly in the States.

Ah yes, mother Naroboltit Putpomaraj. She is indeed one of the biggest pieces to this puzzle.

“My mom was born here and was adopted to a Thai family.” Moses says of his dear mother. “She is half black and half Thai. With her Thai citizenship, Thai birth certificate, and Thai ID, I was able to get my passport (to play here as a local).”

And that’s how Moses Morgan ended up playing in Thailand.


It’s certainly refreshing, as a Thai Basketball fan, to see a player like Moses Morgan cross the pond to play here in Thailand. But you have to admit that a lot of luck took place to make this happen. Basketball in Thailand had been simply non-existent to Moses.

“I didn’t know really know much honestly (about Thailand Basketball). I didn’t know anything about the different teams in the (Thailand Basketball League),” Morgan says of his knowledge of the basketball scene here. “Never crossed my mind until I was able to get my passport.”

Imagine if Winston Morgan didn’t know Joe Bryant. Moses Morgan could have gone his whole lifetime without even donning the purple and gold of PEA.

That’s something that the Thailand Basketball Society might be missing out.


Say hello to Tyler Lamb.

Tyler Lamb was the 5th ranked shooting guard and 28th ranked player in the United States (as per ESPNU) in the Class of 2010, the same class as Moses Morgan. Lamb played at UCLA for three seasons alongside some NBA players like recent NBA Summer League MVP, Kyle Anderson; 2015 Toronto Raptors draftee, Norman Powell; and Minnesota Timberwolf; Shabazz Muhammad.

Gary A. Vazquez-US PRESSWIRE
Gary A. Vazquez-US PRESSWIRE

He didn’t shine as much as was expected at UCLA and similarly to Moses Morgan, he transferred to Long Beach State.

Lamb exploded on the scene at Long Beach State, going for 15.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game to garner 2nd team All Big-West honors.

Picture Credit: Long Beach State University
Picture Credit: Long Beach State University

Why am I bringing up Tyler Lamb though?

It started out with my initial obsession with the Filipino Basketball scene. I had seen so many Fil-Foreigners playing professionally (Stanley Pringle, Moala Tautua’a, Chris Banchero, Avery Scharer, just to name a few that have grazed the ABL. Plenty more in the PBA) and I was just wondering if there were any Thai-Foreigners out there.

It led me to this forum conversation. Unbelievably, Tyler Lamb had been on the radar of the Philippines Basketball scene since 2009 and the conversation went crazy for a short while when they learned that Lamb might have been a legit Fil-Am. People had him above Matt Rosser (awesome rookie for Talk N’ Text Tropang Texters in the PBA right now) and Bobby Ray Parks (who was recently in NBA Summer League with the Mavs) at that time.

Someone had connections with his high school friend and it turned out that his mother was in fact Thai and not a Pinay. And the conversation about Lamb died from there. The forums switched attention to focus on Bobby Ray Parks and Matt Rosser, suddenly changing their opinion of the two to be better than Lamb. It was only fitting that this was one of the last posts concerning Tyler Lamb.

thailer

THAT WAS IN 2009. You’d think that some Thai guy along the way would have picked up this story and moved forward with it within a 6 year span…but that just shows you how small the basketball community in Thailand is.

Or maybe they were just like me. I found the conversation since 2014 and I never decided to do much about it, because I didn’t know how to approach the situation. How do you talk to a guy to come play basketball for a country that barely plays basketball?

That was until Moses Morgan came along.


Once I learned news of Moses Morgan and his Thai Heritage, my mind immediately raced to Tyler Lamb as well. I had to check first, if he was legitimately half-thai and I ran into this tweet from 2012

This notes that, at the very least, we know his grandmother is Thai. It made me confident enough to tweet an indirect mention to him and feel him out about his interests

I didn’t expect a response, because not many people actually respond to indirect mentions from complete strangers…but about one day after that, this happened:

And so it was confirmed. Tyler Lamb is a legit Half-Thai. And he would love to play.


Much like Moses, Tyler wasn’t aware of the basketball scene in Thailand.

“Haha! Honestly I don’t know anything.” Tyler said when asked about the Thailand Basketball scene. “It’s funny because I was just talking to my uncle and he was telling me basketball is not that popular. They play a lot of soccer and Muay Thai.”

And like Moses, he’s pretty much aware of his heritage.

“My mother’s side of the family is from Bangkok and my grandmother still lives out there. I have family in Chiang Mai also,” Tyler says of his Thai Heritage. “But I haven’t been to Thailand since I was 4 years old.”

Funny thing is that both of them played in the Big West conference (Lamb for Long Beach State, Morgan for Cal State Fullerton) and played against one another. They even played with each other growing up.

“Are you serious? Moses?!” Tyler exclaimed when I mentioned to him that Moses was half-Thai and playing in the TBL.

“That’s my guy,” Moses says about Tyler Lamb. “I’ve been in contact with him, because I know he’s half.”

So that’s the thing with the Thailand Basketball Scene. They potentially have some really good players that could be available for the country…and yet, the players know nothing about basketball in Thailand at all.


And that’s just barely the surface.

Meet Justin Bassey.

Picture Credit: Courtcred.com
Picture Credit: Courtcred.com

He’s a 6-foot-4 guard. He averaged about 24 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals last year as a high school junior. He’s a straight A student. He’s committed to Harvard. He’s just a high school senior. AND (according to this article) HIS MOTHER, SUE, IS THAI (while his father is Nigerian).

He might not have the credentials as that of Morgan or Lamb, but he seems like he could be a very fine player nonetheless.


The Big Question hanging on everyone’s head right now is this:

Can they ALL play for the Thailand National Team?

Picture Credit: Onvisa Thewphaibgarm
Picture Credit: Onvisa Thewphaibgarm

We’ve seen Wuttipong Dasom (or Reuben Thomas Lane), the High Flying Thai-Irish, play for the Thai National Team ever since who knows when. It shouldn’t be a problem for these guys right?

The answer is Yes and No.

Unlike the rest of the players above, Reuben has been in Thailand since he was a kid so he has had a Thai passport for quite a long time. For the other guys…

Unfortunately for Thailand, FIBA has a rule for players with Dual citizenship stating:

A national team participating in a Competition of FIBA may have only one player on its team who has acquired the legal nationality of that country by naturalisation or by any other means after having reached the age of sixteen (16).

This is the same case as to why Jordan Clarkson can’t play for the Philippines as a Local Filipino, even though his mother is a Filipina. To be eligible to play for a country, you must have a passport for said country before you are 16.

I hope I am wrong, but I doubt that neither Lamb, Morgan, nor Bassey got their Thai passports before they turned 16.

So, NO, they cannot ALL play for the Thailand National Basketball Team. Not in FIBA sanctioned basketball tournaments, at least. For those who were daydreaming of a starting lineup of Justin Bassey, Tyler Lamb, Moses Morgan, Reuben Thomas Lane, and Sukdave Ghogar…that’s pretty much impossible.

dreamteam

However, Thailand can get ONE of those guys to play for the National Team in each tournament. This is a benefit from the rule raised above. Even if they did get their passports after they turned 16, they can still be considered of Thai Nationality via Naturalization and the National Team gets one player of this “Naturalization” quota per tournament.

If you have a hard time catching up with that, think of the Philippines National Team. Marcus Douthit is not born a Filipino, but he was granted nationality by the Philippines and therefore, he can be summoned to play for the Phlippines in a FIBA sanctioned tournament, such as the past SEA Games tournament.

Same as Andrey Blatche. He was granted Philippines Nationality and he, too, can play for the Philippines National Team as he will be for the upcoming FIBA Asia tournament.

But they cannot play together in the same tournament because of the said rule above.

So, sadly, we will not be able to see a full Thai-Foreign team as mentioned above. However, we will be able to see a Thailand National team that can add a boost of Morgan or Lamb or Bassey…but only one of them.


This has all been very exciting for me to write and to cover, but can it really develop into a reality?

We’ve seen with Moses Morgan, that yes, it can happen. But it’s going to take a lot to make it happen.

Fil-Foreigners are willing to make the leap to the Philippines because they can feel the passion of basketball in the Philippines. And also because teams can throw a lot of money at them can afford them.

For Thailand, to attract Thai-Foreigners to town, as fans, we have to show that we really love this game. Show that we are crazy about this game. The more crazier we are, the more investors there will be. The more investors there are, the money there will be to develop the basketball scene and to pay for these players. The more passion is shown, the easier it is for players to feel that craze.

Some of you might be questioning why we need these Thai-Foreigners in the first place? Can’t we just play with our home-bred Thai players?

We can do that, but if we really want to take another step forward, getting talent from all over the world is a must. Cambodia presented themselves as pretty competitive in the SEA Games, and that was because they had quite a roster of Khmericans (Half Khmer, Half American) to strengthen the squad. Thailand has seen first hand how good Fil-Foreigners can be and how they effected the basketball scene in the Philippines.

Our home-bred players are great and incredibly talented…but imagine teaming them up with players with multiple years of experience playing in the basketball environment of the United States. Wow.

I don’t know about you, but that is one hell of a pretty picture for me.

Update: Joe Bryant didn’t win Thailand’s first ABL trophy. It was in fact Coach Tongkiat Singhasenee. Apologies for the wrong information.

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13 thoughts on “Thai Am Legend: Thai-Foreigners and the Future of Thailand Basketball

  1. FYI. Jordan Clarkson can play for the Philippine National Team, he has a PH passport when he was younger… Only issue last FIBA Championships was his schedule with the Lakers.

    Thailand’s basketball association should join the Philippines in requesting a repeal of the “passport before age of 16 rule”. There are lots of players getting disenfranchised just because other countries have cheated in recruiting mixed-race players.

  2. Your article is actually good i didn’t know that you have those guys, if only they can play on your team Thailand might be contender on our supremacy hope so in the near future fiba might do some modification in the rules so we can go all out send our best team, i do remember in the early 2000’s in the phil. That is the year when a large batches of Fil-Am arrived in the PBA what could I tell is they are all monster. If that time if only we are able to assembled them even Yao Ming and China they can’t actually stop them.

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