We all go through changes in our lives. Whether it is gradual or instant, we all change. I got that reminder today.
I was no longer phased by the make up process anymore and went through it with ease. I was mentally prepared for whatever might be and it ended pretty well.
After I was powdered and ready to go, I strolled among the arena again. Down on the basketball court, a practice session had been going on. But it wasn’t basketball players running drills or having shootarounds. It was the dance crew or the Mono Girls who were going through their formations and routines in preparation for the events up ahead.
I had seen the Mono girls plenty of times before. It’s been a staple with the team since their establishment. But at that moment, it just kind of really hit me how far basketball as a sports entertainment event has come.
As I was focusing on the Mono Girls practice (because I am such a devoted dance lover LOL), I was interrupted by the organizing staff to inform me that the location where myself and my commentating partner has been changed.
It’s as if someone in the camera crew had read my recent blog entry and decided to entertain this whining kid with a new seat in the house. And they were awesome seats. We (as in me and my commentary partner) got a good view of the entire court and it finally felt like we were able to commentate within the game more than just describing what we were seeing on the screen. Change may be good or bad, but this one was really good. Props to whoever read this blog and decided to make a change. MAD Props.
The first game of the day was against Singapore and Indonesia. It would be Singapore’s first game, after playing the role of the spectators throughout yesterday. The Singapore players, coaches, and involved personnel had arrived not long after the Mono Girls wrapped up their practice (to my slight disappointment).
Among the people who were involved but would not be on the bench is Frank Arsego. As I had mentioned in the Singapore team preview that Singapore had hired Arsego as their new head coach but he would only be observing from the stands in this tournament as Coach Neo Nam Kheng led the way.
Because I have a habit of being nosy, I went up to talk with (to be) Coach Frank and got to chit chat a bit. Coach Frank was the head coach of the Singapore Slingers in their first season in the NBL (pro league in Austrailia) so he was quite familiar with the Singapore basketball scene, especially the main care guys like Wong Wei Long and Desmond Oh. I saw his eyes glitter once I asked him how heartwarming it must have felt to see those guys grow up to be the basketball players they are today. The change or transformation they had gone through since then might have played a part to inspire Coach Frank back to coach in Singapore.
That wasn’t the only change that Singapore had gone through. This entire team that Singapore had sent was a huge change.
We all got to see that change pretty clearly in this game against Indonesia.
Delvin Goh was quick to solidify his role on the team, as he steamrolled the inside players of Indonesia for 6 points in only 4 minutes. From that point on, Goh seemed to take a step back and let the offense flow through him rather than being the one who ends the possession.
Singapore held Indonesia to only 1 point for the first 9 minutes and 59 seconds and from there, they just sort of shifted into cruise control and ran their plays to see what worked. The game was blown out pretty badly early on and it was hard to call the game while trying to keep the viewers hope that maybe, maybe, Indonesia still had a chance.
Delvin Goh would finish the game with a solid 13 points and 12 rebounds. He did a good job defensively and ended without a single foul at all.
While I had expected players like Toh Qin Huang and Leon Kwek to step up to support Goh, it was Shengyu Lim who had stepped up the most out of all of them.
Despite all statistics that I had dug up about Lim pointing that he would be a three-point shooter, Lim all of his damage close to the basket. Lim shot 12-14 from the floor to amount for 24 points off a series of nice craft moves around the rim. But Lim summarized it best at the end of the game about his performance, citing that it was a team effort to get him the ball in the right places. All he had to do was put the ball in when he was open. And he did.
I tried very hard to find something good to say about the Indonesia National Team, I really did. But there wasn’t much to say. Surlyadin scored 18 points but he also took 24 shots to get those points.
Okay, I have to admit that I love the dope way the Indonesian National Team does their National Anthem pose. Legit Awesomeness. If someone can provide me with a detailed backstory about this, I’d be more than thankful.
The game ended without much interest as there were barely any fans in the arena.
And then it was time for the Thailand National Team to take the stage.
There was a certain buzz in the arena. Thailand had started out their campaign with a very convincing win against Indonesia and while Malaysia took a loss in their opening game, they had performed well enough to impress a lot of people. Coach Goh Cheng Huat of Malaysia had said before tipoff that this “was going to be a very good game” and that Malaysia couldn’t judge much from Thailand’s win because of how badly Indonesia had played.
The game started out very entertainingly. The body movement of the people on the court were masterful and seemed to entrance everyone who was watching and they jumped up and down.
Oh wait, the Mono Girls were back!
Since this was a Thailand game, the Mono Girls would be back for on-court entertainment to please the viewers. And hey, I was pleased, so a job well done.
So…back to the game. In the first quarter, it seemed to be everything that everyone was expecting. Thailand and Malaysia were trading punches back and forth both in terms of scoring and almost literally trading punches. Both teams were aggressive from the start and got into foul trouble early. Despite Nakorn Jaisanook hitting 3 three-pointers in the first quarter, Thailand were only up by 6 points at 24-18.
From that point on is where you could feel the change of the Thailand National Team kick in.
I was lucky enough to get a chance to talk with Coach Tim Lewis on his very first day with the Thailand National Team which was day one of the tryouts.
One of the things he told me that stuck in the back of my head was that he was going to have “the best defensive team in the tournament”.
That was his mission from the start and that’s what intrigued me the most. Coach Tim was never flashy. He never tried to make everyone else feel inferior and tried to simplify things as much as he could.
I had never been able to stick around National Team practices as much as I had wanted to, but I had continuously heard better and better things about Coach Tim. Both assistant coaches (Piyapong Piroon and Ratdech Kruatiwa) had mentioned how systematic Coach Tim was. They told me time and again that this could very well be what the Thailand National Team needed to step forward. Some players themselves (both who made the cut and were cut) spoke highly of Coach Tim.
This moment here in the first quarter might not be the all-defining point in the turn of Thailand National Team basketball, but I feel that it was pretty significant.
Thailand didn’t back down from foul trouble in the first quarter and cranked the defense to another level. Malaysia would end up making only 7 points throughout the entire 10 minutes of the second quarter. There was an iconic moment (at least for me) when Kwaan Yoong Jing got the ball in the post down low and was swarmed in disciplinary fashion by 4 Thai defenders.
Yoong Jing eventually coughed up the ball and Thailand zoomed back on the other end for their offensive possession.
It might seem like a regular defensive play, but it was only one of plenty of defensive plays where Thailand crowded around the opposing team offense in a systematic approach to force turnovers. That’s a huge change and that was certainly something new in the Thailand Basketball scene, in my honest opinion. Malaysia was able to put up 83 shots, but the majority of them were well contested.
Coach Tim set out on a mission to make this team the best defensive team in the tournament and now after two days of competition, they have come out impressive in that particular side of the court.
Here are some other key points I’d like to add about the game without disrupting the tone of this writeup:
- This is the second straight game that all Thai players have scored at least one point. I think this deserves a round of applause.
- So…Wong Yi Hou didn’t exactly have the follow up game I was expecting (1-8, 3 points, 4 turnovers)…..BUT I feel that this has more to do with Thailand’s defense than Yi Hou’s performance in the Philippines game being a fluke.
- Theerawat Chantachon looks like he’s been getting a better grasp of his athletic ability, exploiting that to the fullest and grabbed 5 offensive boards.
Thailand, as a team, had a 50% Total Rebounding Rate.
- Malaysia never backed down at all in this game. Core guys like Kuek and Kwaan tried their best to keep the score within range and while a combined 31 points between the two looks good, it took them 37 shot attempts to get there.
As time winded down with Thailand comfortably in the lead, the Thailand crowd still applauded on. There was a sense of belief buzzing in the air that the basketball scene had not felt in a while.
No, it was not as if everyone expect Thailand to beat Philippines…but the thought was suddenly becoming more imaginable.
The “change” had become more evident now than ever. Thailand basketball has changed so much since I had started covering it out of pure boredom while I still had a full-time job as an engineer in Vietnam. I look back and I see how much I have changed. I look back and I see how much Thailand basketball has changed.
And then I look forward…and I see how much more Thailand basketball can change for the better.
I just hope I’ll always be there to witness it with all of you out there.