Wutipong Dasom is a unique individual.
During a late season ASEAN Basketball League game against the Pilipinas MX3 Kings, Hitech Bangkok City guard Freddie Goldstein stripped the ball away from Filipino guard Mike Gamboa and passed the ball ahead into the open court ahead of him. A streaking shadow pounced passed the halfcourt line, took one dribble, and gathered his jump on two feet. It was Wutipong Dasom.
This is the ASEAN Basketball League though. Because of the challenged genetics of the population of this region, the league is usually entertained with electrifying dunks from the imports, mostly American.
Yet, Dasom gathered on both feet, twisted his body, and pulled the ball slightly halfway down before dunking the ball into the rim. By NBA standards, a semi-reverse semi-double pump two-handed jam off two feet might not seem entirely impressive. On a relative scale however, that got us off our seats a bit.
“When did you first dunk?” is probably one of the most repetitive questions anyone has asked the Hitech Bangkok City high-flying forward. I still couldn’t help myself from leading off with that question nonetheless.
“I was 16 and we were on the court after the big guys finished their pick up game,” Dasom recalls. “My brother and I were playing around and I was dunking by jumping off of his knee. One time, I just told my brother I’d do it without jumping off his knee so I just ran, ran, ran from really far. Then I gathered on both legs and dunked.”
“One of the big guys stretching on the side of the court saw this and he started clapping. He said ‘Wow! How old are you?’ and I said ‘16’. Then he said ‘You can jump! And you just dunked’,” Dasom continues retelling his first dunk. “And then I was like ‘Yeah, wow. That was cool’.”
The ease of how Dasom recalls the story is kind of like watching him dunk. He does it with a sort of calm and chill approach, but when you take a step back and really think about it, you are left in awe about how impressive it was.
This was a 16-year-old kid, who had never dunked (except from jumping off his brother’s knee, apparently), and he just pulled out a dunk out of nowhere on a random night in the park.
That would be how Dasom’s path to basketball started as well; just out the blue randomness.
Dasom grew up in a family that saw the importance of playing sports and keeping healthy. His father would take him and his siblings to a park every weekend when he was younger. If you were picturing the Dasom family playing a cute game of 3-on-3 on a playground court…I will have to disappoint you. The Dasom family actually went to play football and even though the basketball court was right across the football pitch, little Dasom never really took much interest.
That was until one day, the basketball players were playing 3-on-3 and one team was short one player. Dasom, then 15, was standing by while resting from his football sessions and they asked if he wanted to play.
“I said sure. So this guy on my team taught me how to shoot off the backboard. I practiced that on the far side of the court while waiting our team’s turn,” Dasom recollects. “When it was finally our turn to play, I started scoring.”
After that, weekend after weekend, Dasom would always play basketball after playing football and sometimes skipping his football sessions completely to shoot hoops.
He would move on to playing for schools and playing on travelling teams in a long journey up until this day where he is now the staple of the Thailand National Team and the face of Hitech Bangkok City Basketball.
“There was this time during a school competition where my brother and I were invited to play in.” Dasom answered as I asked him about his first in-game dunk. “It was a routine play and we were just passing the ball around. I caught the ball in the zone, gathered, and dunked the ball over this center.”
“The Crowd went crazy.”
Dasom is a pretty chill and funny guy to everyone, but when he talks basketball, he’s dead serious.
Before the 6th Season of the ABL started, I got a chance to sit down and talk with him before practice, while he was still nursing an injury he picked up during the SEA Games competition. We started a light conversation about new shoes in the market, but before I knew it, he was talking to me about all of his condition training and rehab processes in depth. Dasom approaches basketball in a professional and competitive matter, making sure that he has as much edge on his opponents as he possibly can.
“I want to get a chance to play defense on Terrence Romeo,” Dasom told me one day while we were discussing about the Philippines National Basketball Team. Terrence Romeo is one of the brightest stars in the Philippines right now. His dribbling skills and scoring prowess is hard to match.
You could sense the competitive fire in Dasom’s voice as he talked about all of Romeo’s moves and how he would counter them.
That competitive edge is not just something that comes natural though. It’s something that Dasom has cultivated and groomed since he was born.
Wutipong Dasom has 10 siblings, including himself. With one older brother, three younger brothers, and a father who has a passion to take his kids to play sports every weekend, it’s not surprising that Wutipong would turn out to be this competitive. Big bro Wutipong (3rd eldest) might have been the first one to break into the pro ranks, but little bros Apisittinan and Kittitep are right behind him and making waves of their own.
“Since we were young, playing young little kid games, we would still compete. Everyone would be saying ‘I’m better’ and we would always be getting into fights,” Dasom says of his sibling rivalries. “It would always push us to be better. Now that we are playing basketball for the [Durakit Pundit] University, whenever we have practice, we just go at each other.”
“From little fun [jabs], it turns into something really competitive and we start talking trash,” Dasom continues. “Playfully of course, but it’s really competitive and that always keeps the fire burning to get better.”
At Hitech Bangkok City home games, you can always see at least one of the Dasom brothers and even some of the sisters as well. You can be sure that deep in the back of his head, Wutipong Dasom is going to give his best effort just because if he has a bad outing, he’s surely going to get an earful from one of his siblings.
But that’s not the only thing that Dasom’s upbringing has benefited him on the court.
Aside from being one of Hitech Bangkok City’s dangerous weapons on the fastbreak, Dasom is also one of their best on-ball defenders. His length and athleticism has led him to guarding the likes of Ratdech Kruatiwa (one of Thailand’s best players), Kiefer Ravena (One of the Philippines best up and coming stars), and Matthew Wright (one of the best scores the ABL has ever seen) among other star scorer’s on opposing teams.
Moreover, he’s becoming a better midrange and long range shooter as well. He shot 23.3% from downtown this past ABL season, including this long range dagger to lead Hitech Bangkok City to a win over the Singapore Slingers late in the season.
His multifaceted ways go further than his on-court contributions, too. On a professional team where you have local Thai players and American (and Half-American) imports, Dasom is a guy that does a really good job of closing gap of cultural differences.
It’s molded Dasom into a really unique player for any team to have, both in terms of on-court play and off-court bonding.
A part of how he has achieved this special ability to blend in and bond could be because of how unique he has been brought up.
Try to keep up with me now, because things are going to get pretty weird from here on out.
Wutipong Dasom has that unique Eurasian look because he is Irish-Thai. His father is Irish and his mother is Thai. That is why he also goes by the name “Reuben”, from his full Irish name “Reuben Thomas Lane”. Dasom was born in Karaji, Pakistan where he and his family stayed for three months before moving over to the southern parts of Thailand. The Dasoms have always been on the move, going from province to province because his parents loved to travel and explore.
What’s even more interesting, is how Dasom got his education. Unlike most of the Thai youth, Dasom didn’t wake up every morning to put on his uniform and go to class at a public/private school.
“Growing up, we were homeschooled by our mom and our dad,” Dasom says. “We grew up in big homes where there were three or four families. So we had families from Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, France, and America [among others]. We grew up around their children, their parents, and their cultures. I basically got to know a lot of cultures at a really young age. I learned how to speak a little bit of a lot of languages.”
“It kind of gave me a lot of experience to not be so judgmental about everyone because people are different. I learned to accept people as how they are,” Dasom says of his benefits up growing up in a multi-cultural environment. “I learned how to adapt to all these differences and it’s helped me not only outside of the basketball court, but inside it as well.”
“I was exposed to a lot, so I was able to take away the good and the bad and put into calculation for myself on what to do and what not to do,” Dasom continues. “It exposed me to a lot of other sports, too. The guys from Argentina and Spain played tennis and football. The guys from America played American football and basketball. So, at a young age, I was really athletic.”
All of that really shows when Dasom is on the court; his athleticism, his fluidity to communicate with his team mates, how he positions himself among his team mates and other people involved.
Getting to know his unorthodox upbringing, you get a better understanding of why Dasom is such a unique talent and what makes him so valuable to both his club and the national team.
Being the face of the National Team, being the star of his club, Dasom has achieved so much in basketball that you might wonder what drives him forward. So I asked him what fires his passion for basketball.
“Every day, I learn something new,” Dasom tells me. “Basketball was a lot more complicated, a lot more complex, and a lot more difficult than anything I had ever tried in my life. It [is a sport] that is so tiring, so exhilarating in where it uses your brain as much as it used your physicality. It uses your feet, your foot work, your arms, your skills, your eyes. It used everything altogether and it was amazing how it all worked out.”
“I met fat guys who could barely jump, but they could still be able to post up and score off hook shots where they didn’t even have to jump at all,” Dasom says of his fascination for the sport. “There would be guys who could shoot anywhere on the court. There would be guys that would be so quick to the basket. It was so confusing, but at the same time, I was learning from watching everyday so it was really interesting. Time went on and I just kept on learning and falling deeper in love with the game.”
“What makes me push harder every day,” Dasom elaborates. “was when Derrick rose was interviewed on NBATV. He said ‘Why can’t I be the MVP of the league? Why can’t I be the best player in the world? Who’s stopping me?’”
“After hearing that I asked myself those questions. ‘Why can’t I be the best player in Thailand? Why can’t I be the MVP of all the leagues in Thailand? Why can’t I go play professionally like everyone else?’,” Dasom continues. “I quote that in my head every time I feel like I can’t do something. It helps me.”
He’s getting there. He recently capped off a Most Outstanding Player award in the Thailand Division 1 Basketball Tournament late last year. He was in the running for the ASEAN MVP award in the ABL last year, and is a heavy favorite for the award this year.
Bit by bit, Wutipong Dasom is approaching a higher level of his profession, which is what everyone should aim for. But what is his highest aspiration?
“As far as I can go,” Dasom answers. “Everyone dreams of the NBA, but for me, I just want to play somewhere that can appreciate what I have and what I can do.”
At the end of the ABL season last year, there were rumors that a Philippines Basketball Association (PBA) team had inquired about bringing Wutipong Dasom in as an asian import. While that never came through, it just shows that Dasom still has room to expand as a professional basketball player. So I asked Dasom what his next step would be as a professional basketball player.
“Hopefully, the ABL would be my stage for me to perform and show people what I can do,” Dasom says. “From there, maybe I can get a shot to play as an Import somewhere.”
Dasom is now 25 years old. He’s still relatively young, but he’s gotten to that age where he has another generation of basketball players who look up to him. There’s a bunch of teenage basketball players out there who idolizes him and looks to follow in his footsteps.
Being in that position where he can say that he has succeeded at a level in this path, I asked him what his advice would be to those who look to go forward in the path of basketball like him.
“If you really love the sport,” Dasom starts dramatically. “Learn the basics. Learn how to play the game the right way. Learn the fundamentals. Learn how to excel in your field of greatness.”
“If you’re a good jumper, learn to excel in jumping. If you’re a good shooter, learn to excel in shooting. Just work hard and work smart. If you really want it, keep going at it. Nothing is impossible if you work for it. If you really, really want to, you can accomplish anything. There’s nothing holding you back.”
“No one can tell you that you can’t do it. So just play and have fun.”
“Don’t let anyone tell you what you cannot do because it’s not true. Other people have done it, so why can’t you?”
That’s advice from someone who has always been on the pathway that not many people have taken. That’s from someone who has not had the exposure of going to a school with a good basketball program or being able to play in tournaments where you might get recognition.
So if he can make it, why can’t anyone else do the same?