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10 Van Hung Nguyen (VIE)
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Van Hung plans to use everything he has learned to help grow Vietnam basketball

MANILA (SEABA Championship 2017) - Nguyen Van Hung knows how to compete at the highest level of sport, and he hopes everything he has learned in Manila will help him grow Vietnamese basketball.

Nguyen is the only athlete at the SEABA Championship 2017 in Manila who has competed at the Olympics, but he did so as a Taekwondo jin. He probably won't see the Vietnamese national basketball team compete at that level in his lifetime, but he wants to a part of the generation that sparks a growth in the sport back home.

"We did not have a long time to prepare for this tournament, and all we hope is to learn," he said after their game against Malaysia on Day 5. "We want to continue learning from the other teams and use what we've learned to develop our basketball at home."

Vietnam and basketball have rarely been used in the same sentence, but that is slowly changing. With the Saigon Heat improving their standing in the ASEAN Basketball League and the newly installed Vietnam Basketball Association (VBA) expanding at a good rate, there seems to be healthy groundwork for the sport to develop in the next few years.

"Playing in the ABL before was already a good sign, but now that we have the VBA, it's an even better sign to have quick development of the game for the future."Nguyen Van HungNguyen Van Hung

That growth won't come quickly, of course, and the national team's own relevance in the region will not skyrocket anytime soon, but at least they have displayed more than a few moments of brilliance. Nguyen is one of Vietnam's players who has turned a lot of heads in this competition, and he is the kind of talent whom young Vietnamese kids can look up to and after whom they can pattern their games.

And, sure, Vietnam have struggled getting wins in Manila, but their narrow defeat at the hands of podium dark horse Malaysia have made people take notice.

"Before the tournament, everyone thought we wouldn't be very competitive and not as good as some of the other teams like Malaysia," he explained. "We just played a well as we can, and we're happy to have been in a position to win."

Vietnam take on powerhouse Philippines tonight in what will almost certainly be a rout of epic proportions, but Nguyen is not after getting Ws. He is here for the experience of playing against some of the best basketball players in the region and in the continent, and, again, whatever fruits of their labor, he plans to bring home as lessons for the Vietnamese basketball program. In fairness to him and his teammates, Vietnam have seemingly been improving as the days go by.

"We are not focused on having many wins," he admitted. "But we think we have kept on getting better after every game."

One thing he will surely remember and cherish is how warm the Filipino basketball fans have received him and the rest of the Vietnam team. For him, the adoration of the fans, especially last night against Malaysia, reminds him of their fans back in their homeland.

"In the past, when I still played Taekwondo, Filipinos cheered for me, and now they cheer for me in basketball, too!" he exclaimed. "I feel very happy, and I highly appreciate their support. Even if we lost last night, we felt we were at home because of the Filipino fans."