Follow FIBA on Facebook
Thailand showcase that they will battle to tooth and nail by ''playing the right way''
SEOUL (Korea) - The odds were heavily stacked against Thailand as they headed into their matchup against Korea in Seoul. According to the previous update of the FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike, Korea - the 5th ranked team in Asia/Oceania - were 75 ranks higher than Thailand - the 21st ranked team in the region.
“So for that, I’m happy that we showed people that we’re learning, understanding, executing, and playing the game of basketball the right way.” - Chris Daleo
The Thailand national team marched into Jamsil Students’ Gymnasium as the visiting underdogs. Even though they eventually weren’t able to complete the upset, Thailand put up a fight in which they hope would put their basketball program in a different light moving forward.
The visitors went toe to toe with the mighty favorites of Group A in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers. They built up a lead of as much as 7 points in the first half and even held on to it heading into the halftime break.
"I think it was a well-fought game,” said Tyler Lamb, Thailand’s star scorer. “It got away from us in the 3rd quarter, but I’m proud of my guys that we were able to fight back in the 4th quarter and bring it close."
"I think little adjustments, and we’re well on our way."
Lamb put Thailand on his shoulders, scoring timely baskets and pulling off highlight plays to keep the momentum going. He ended up with 28 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 steals in an admirable fighting effort.
This is nothing new for Lamb, who had already starred for Thailand during the SEABA Pre-Qualifiers. Instead, it was the promising support from his teammates, whether it was Chanatip Jakrawan (15 points) and Wattana Suttisin (15 points) that helped display Thailand’s recent developments.
"I thought both teams came out and played hard,” Lamb added. “For Thailand, this was a big opportunity to show how far we’ve come."
"I think coach did a great job of having our guys ready to play and ready for the big stage, and this was a big stage. I think everybody knows Korea basketball is big."
From the SEA Games 2019 and now this first window of the Qualifiers, coach Chris Daleo has done well in squeezing out as much potential from his players as he can. A prime example is the aforementioned Suttisin. The 35-year-old who top-scored for Thailand at FIBA Asia Cup 2013 is playing at a high level once again, even after recently being out of the national team rotation.
For coach Daleo, how he coaches this team is pretty straightforward.
"I want to prepare my team to be able to play a respectful game of basketball where we can showcase to the region and the world what Thailand basketball can do, what we’re building, and what we’re creating," stated Daleo.
"Sure would have been great to get the win, but I was proud of the way we played. I was proud of the way we competed."
Daleo, like many of the fans in Thailand, understand how mighty of an opponent Korea was and how big of an achievement it was to come out with that result on the road.
"Korea has a fantastic basketball team,” he added. “I was glad that we were able to showcase the world that we’re able not to get blown out on their home floor, that we’re going to compete, and that we’re going to battle to tooth and nail."
"So for that, I’m happy that we showed people that we’re learning, understanding, executing, and playing the game of basketball the right way."
It’s a promising start for Thailand in the Qualifiers. In the recent update of the FIBA World Ranking, they even made the biggest leap among all teams in Asia/Oceania by going up to six spots.
However, with two more windows left, they will need to turn these promising performances into wins should they aim to qualify for Asia Cup 2021. Thailand haven’t been to the big stage since 2013 and have only played in the Asia Cup twice since the turn of the millennium.
The key to getting back might be just as easy as playing basketball the right way.