Sea Games gold medalist Olympic veteran on Vietnam Seaba team
by rick olivares
The Vietnamese national team flew into Manila for the Seaba championships minus three players who weren’t given clearance by the Vietnamese military for the matches.
That leaves head coach Donte Hill with nine able bodies to compete in this biannual basketball tourney. He’ll have one tough guy though in tow – center Nguyen Van Hung.
In many ways, Van Hung is a national hero in his country – he is a five-time Southeast Asian gold medalist in taekwondo (heavyweight division). He’s also copped gold and silver in the Asian Games and has represented his country twice in the Olympics. For his efforts, the Vietnamese government conferred upon him the Honourable First Class Labour Order in January 2006, a top award given to civilians.
According to Vietnam team official Nguyen Ngoc Huyen Trang, Van Hung is a practicing taekwondo coach. “And when he isn’t teaching taekwondo, he plays center for the Saigon Heat in the Asean Basketball League.”
Said Hill of his player, Va Hung is a terrific and fearless defensive player. One who is used to playing against imports.
The 36-year old Van Hung is in the twilight of his cage career. According to Ngoc Huyen Trang, the Vietnam squad seeing action in the Seaba tourney is a mixture of veteran talent with newcomers. “Basketball is only new to our country,” said Ngoc Huyen Trang. “With Van Hung on the team, we hope he will inspire young Vietnamese to also play basketball.”
In this country of over 92 million, football is king. Basketball though is growing. And how this team performs in Seaba and the August Sea Games in Kuala Lumpur will have an effect on how their countrymen view the game. And Nguyen Van Hung will play a large part in it.