The game had just barely started and Chitchai Ananti was already bursting up to the rim to slam in a one-handed jam.
As someone who had just tuned in to the season opener of the Thailand Professional Basketball League (TPBL) between the Mono Warriors and the Korasauras, it was spectacular to see Ananti just get up and go for it in the very first play. Good for you, man.
Though he botched the initial dunk attempt, Ananti was able to redeem himself by knocking down a three to record the first points in the history of the TPBL.
Ananti seemed unsatisfied and in the following play… he went up to attempt a dunk once again.
“I was determined to dunk on the first play,” Anati said after the game. “I thought i had it in the second attempt, too. But the ball was too slippery and it just rimmed out.”
Each time he soared up into the air towards the rim, you could see some fans from both teams get out of their seats to anticipate the slam. When the dunk clanged off the rim, there was a collective groan of disappointment including even the home town crowd of Nakhonratchasima.
Other than being the inaugural game of the TPBL, this was also the first professional basketball league game played in the province of Nakhonratchasima (or at least in recent history). The venue that hosted the game was Terimnal 21 Hall and it gave a chance for a new group of fans to see their national team heroes like Ananti live in action.
“It felt good playing at Korat,” Ananti said, referring to the provincing alternate name. “The fans are great and playing here reminded me of when I studied high-school at Korat.”
At the game, there was a group of fans that were loud and rowdy in particular, positioned not far behind the home team bench. While they were obviously rooting for Korasaurus, they also rooted wildly as Ananti knocked down triple after triple from the corner. These kids in uniform are students of the Assumption College Nakhonratchasima (ACN), the school of which Ananti is an Alumnus of.
In this game, Ananti took court as one of the top players of one of the best professional basketball clubs in the country who has played on the national team time and again over the years. Before all of this, way back even before he starred for smaller teams like Mono Thewphaingarm or the Navy, Ananti was just the same as these kids in blue shorts, falling in love with the game.
“When I was playing at ACN, I didn’t think that I would come this far to play professional basketball,” says the 28-year-old wing. “But I did have it as a goal to make it to this point someday.”
Ananti top-scored for the team in this game with 18, leading the Mono Warriors to a debut win 108-72 over Korasaurus on the road. Fans had the opportunity to appraoch their favorite players after the game to snap photos or get autographs. Of course, Ananti was swarmed by his fellow ACN juniors.
Who knows? Maybe the opportunity to see Ananti pour in points right in front of their eyes would become the inspiration these kids needed to pave their path towards great success in basketball as well.
Since the TPBL has adopted a double-round robin and “home-and-away” format, this is the last time in the regular season that Ananti will be playing at Terminal 21 Hall in front of his friends from Nakhonratchasima. He hopes that it won’t be his last either.
“Thanks to everyone from Nakhonratchasima who came to cheer at this game. This was a great feeling,” Ananti added before leaving to go back to Bangkok and prepare for a big match against Hitech on Saturday, June 15.
“If there’s an opportunity, I’ll surely be back.”
(Photo Credit: MTHAI)