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Will the childhood dream of Thailand's Patiphan Klahan continue at the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers?
Bangkok (Thailand) - Thailand national team forward Patiphan Klahan generally towers over the average Thai citizen. Coupled with his wiry frame and long arms, Klahan usually stands out in a crowd. But this wasn’t always the case and that was also a reason Klahan started playing basketball in the first place.
“I started playing basketball because I was a once a small kid,” Klahan sheepishly admits. “My mother kept joking that I was too small and I had heard that playing basketball could help you get to taller so I started playing.”
As he continued to play, Klahan shot up to be 2.01M (6’7”) and is now one of the top forwards in the country. From playing the sport as a way to get taller, the 25-year-old fell in love with the game and has never looked back.
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“When I started playing, I felt that basketball is a complex sport. It’s challenging. Not only do you have to be skilled, you have to be able to play along with other players as well so there’s another level of competition.
“When I started playing in my neighborhood, the other older players asked my why I was playing. I said that I wanted to play for the national team and they kind of laughed it off.”
No one is laughing now as Klahan has stapled himself as a regular and standout for the national squad ever since his debut for Thailand in a in 2016. At the FIBA Asia Challenge that year when he was only 22 years old, Klahan led the team in scoring with 10.2 points per game and also averaged 5.2 rebounds.
“As I said, it was always my goal as a kid to make the national team. I felt so proud for all the work and practice I had gone through to become one of the 12 people to represent the country,” Klahan said. “It was a good feeling that you can’t really explain.”
From there, Klahan has been a player that is expected to make the national team for any tournament. He was a major contributor for the team at the SEABA Championship and SEA Games in 2017 and the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 SEABA Pre-Qualifiers in 2018. The “good feeling you can’t really explain” he gets from representing Thailand never goes away for the lanky forward.
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“When ever I play for the national team, it’s an honor,” Klahan expresses. “It motivates me to play even harder because you are shouldering the emotions and expectations of an entire country. It’s a lot of pressure, but we try our best and have fun when we play.”
Making the national team at a young age has been a delight for Klahan as it has given him the opportunity to play with his childhood idol and respected Thailand basketball legend, Attaporn Lertmalaiporn. Though the two play for the same local club in Thailand as well, it was a different feeling to wear the Thailand jersey together at the same time during the SEABA Stankovic Cup 2016.
(#36 Klahan running alongside childhood idol #55 Lertmalaiporn)
“When I was in the 9th grade, there was a basketball event at my school which I went to watch,” Klahan recalls. “I watched [Attaporn] drive in and dunk on a senior player at my school and it left me shocked and impressed.”
“So I decided that I wanted to be like him. I wanted to make the national team and I did and got to be on the same team with him, too.”
Klahan is an important part of the Thailand national team program that is developing at a fast pace. Late in 2018, they advanced to the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers that will be starting later this year. Thailand will get a chance to go up against some of the top nations in Asia and while it’s a good opportunity for players like Klahan, he hopes it can be even more valuable for the next generation.
“I’m very happy that Thailand will get to play at this level,” Klahan says. “We know that we still have to get better both physically and in terms of skill, but it’s a good thing for us to play [at the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers] so that the younger kids in Thailand can watch and take as inspiration to make themselves and the national team better.”
“For me, it’s always fun to play against other national teams like Iran, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and others. It’s so exciting and it is so much fun.”
Klahan and Thailand will be ready to soak in all of that excitement and entertainment when the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers tip off later this year. Thailand are currently one of the smaller nations in terms of basketball at the moment, but take it from a guy who used to be small like Klahan: sometimes you just go out there and play with a purpose and one day you will grow to be bigger and better than ever before.