Q&A: Mario Wuysang X @FIBAAsiaCup Instagram
CALIFORNIA (USA) - Indonesia star and legend, Mario Wuysang, played for the national team for nearly 15 years. He's played in three Asia Cups, scoring a total of 215 points for an average of 11.3 points per game.
After enjoying some off-time from basketball over the recent few years, Mario Wuysang sat down to talk in a live interview on the @FIBAAsiaCup Instagram account about his thoughts on basketball in Asia and the FIBA Asia Cup.
What's been going on with you? What are you doing during these times?
I'm in California right now. The state of California and most of the United States are on lockdown for almost a month. It's been tough for everyone, but I've just been trying to stay active. We're working out in the driveway, in the neighborhood. We can't really go far, but I have a basketball hoop right here, so we've just been out there.
What's your all-time favorite movie?
There's a lot, but I would say my all-time favorite would have to be - hands down - "coming to America." It's a comedy, back in the day. For those of you who know what that is, Coming to America is classic, classic, comedy and that would be my all-time favorite. I do have a lot of good basketball movies like "White Man Can't Jump" is one of my favorites. "Above the Rim" is one of my favorites.
You're listed having the nickname "Uncle Roe," but that can't have always been the case, right?
(laughs) So my nickname growing up has always been "Roe." That nickname was given to me when I was in freshman in high school from a friend of mine, Eric Thompson. That just stuck with me. But as I got older, I started to play with a lot of younger guys. Then, obviously, that turned in to Uncle Roe, and In Indonesia, they would say like Om Roe [a traditional way of saying "Sir" in Bahasa Indonesia].
How do you feel about nicknames like "Super Mario" and "Head of the Wuysang Clan"?
I don't mind. People will make up their own nicknames for you. Like "Super Mario," no one really calls me that. It's probably just like in a game, and a commentator would say it, but no one really says that to me. Everyone just calls me Roe.
(laughs) But I don't mind as long as it's not offensive.
Looking back at your older photos, we saw you not wearing a headband in like 2007. Then we saw that later you were sporting a headband. Is there something behind that, or is it just a choice of fashion?
When I was just coming to play in Indonesia, I was wearing a headband back then. Early in my career, I was, and then I kind of saw people start wearing headbands, so then started not wearing headbands. Then towards the end of my career, I started wearing headbands again. It's just something I always liked to wear.
(laughs) Because you know, I'm bald, so no one wants to see my ugly bald head. I'm going just to rock a headband to cover it up a bit.
You've been playing in Indonesia for a long time. How did it feel to put on the national team jersey for the first time?
The first time I put it on was in 2003 in the SEA Games. It was an incredible feeling because that was something I always wanted to do, which was to represent my country in international competitions. Just knowing that when I put that on… It's just a feeling of pride, knowing that you are representing a whole nation.
(smiles) It's an incredible feeling, man.
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You played for nearly 15 years for Indonesia. How has the feeling changed each time you play for the national team?
When I was young, and the first time I played for the national team, I didn't know how to approach it. I was really nervous. It was bigger than I expected. I couldn't really grasp it. Definitely towards the end of my career, as I got older being on the national team, I kind of understood what I had to do to represent and how big this is. To be able to have this opportunity, to represent the country, I definitely appreciated it more and got more focused as I got older.
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As I say goodbye to my last Seagames as a player I want to thank everyone that has supported me since 2003. I will always cherish the memories and experiences I have had throughout. These doors have now been kicked open, it's time for someone else to run through them.! 🙏🏽 #TheFutureIsYours 🥈🥈🥈🥉 #LivingProof ✌🏽#grateful 🇮🇩
You played in three Asia Cups: 2005, 2007, 2011. Which year was your most favorite?
They're all great, but probably my most memorable was in Asia Cup 2007 in Japan. One, it was my first time in Japan and just that whole experience, experiencing the whole Japanese culture was amazing. As far as on the court, I would say because that was my second FIBA Asia Cup and I was more prepared. I knew that it was a great opportunity for me to showcase my abilities. That's probably the best one for me in the FIBA Asia Cup.
Which moment in that year that really stood out in your memory, like you can recall off the top of your head?
I believe we placed 12th that year. That was probably our best that we've placed [in the Asia Cup]. I would say the best memory was probably playing against UAE because we went into overtime against them. That game was insane. We came out with a victory, but we went neck and neck down to the wire. I was able to hit some shots at the end to get the victory, and it was definitely a memorable moment.
(shows photos of Indonesia NT jerseys) Which jersey from the years playing for Indonesia did you like the most?
Between the pictures you just showed me, I would say 2011, the all-white. Just because I've always liked a simple look and I think that was the most simple that we've had since 2003. Another Indonesia jersey that I liked was the 2007 SEA Games jersey which was played in Thailand. It was an And1-sponsored jersey and I liked it because of the design. Our manager at the time designed it, shout out to him. It was red and had two stripes down the side, like white stripes, it was really, really cool.
I'll send you a picture later.
Here's a question from a fan: Have you had any offers to play in the Philippines?
(laughs) It's a funny, long story. Before I went back to Indonesia when I was 23, I was here in Chicago playing in all the [Filipino-American] tournaments, Fil-Am leagues and all the Filipinos there, the elders, they actually tried to get me to go to the Philippines. The problem is I'm not Filipino!
So I went to Indonesia instead and represented my country. But about playing in the Philippines, I would have loved to play in the Philippines. Who wouldn't, right? The basketball in the country. I have so many friends there. It's all love, but god's path is different. He wanted me to go back to the country I was born in, and that's what I did.
You've played against some really good players in Asia over the years. Who are some Asia Cup players you enjoyed matching up against?
Oh, man, so many! There are so many players I've played against over 15 years, but a memorable matchup that I want to talk about was in 2007 as well in Japan. We played against Syria and Micheal Madanly, point guard for Syria. He's about 6'4", point guard. He played in the PBA [Philippines Basketball Association] as an import for a conference. He was an incredible player and he had 40 on me and our team. I had 33 on them and we were going at it. That was a memorable game for sure.
If people don't know who this guy is, Micheal Madanly. Google him; he's a beast.
Who have been some of your teammates who you feel are a bit underrated or that people don't recognize how good they are?
A good friend of mine, Arki Wisnu. I don't know if he's underrated because I think he has a lot of respect, people know who he is, but he's definitely a player who is going to carry Indonesia through the next how-many years he wants to play.
As far as maybe a couple players who are underrated are [Andakara] Prastawa and Abraham [Damar Grahita], those two guys for Indonesia. They're undersized, they will shoot, and the thing I love about them is their energy in their heart. They don't back down from anyone. That's something that when I got a chance to play with them, I preached that to them. Let's not back down from anybody, and I see them still doing that today. They've improved every tournament, so those guys make me proud to have played with them.
Also look out for Brandon Jawato. When he gets his papers done, he's going to carry that flag very well.
These are some of the younger next generation guys. Leading into that, how do you feel about Indonesia basketball heading into the future?
I think it's great. I believe they are headed in the right direction. They've got a great coaching staff, they've got great support, and they're taking the right steps to improve, I believe. You can see there are young guys there with talent. It's just going to blossom. You know there are some guys I have never even got a chance to meet yet, some younger guys like a lot younger from the junior program that have really good talent and height and size. Maybe in the future, I would definitely love to work with them in some way.
About the future, there's also the FIBA basketball World Cup that Indonesia is going to be hosting in 2023. How big of a deal is that for you as an Indonesian in the basketball community?
I think it's huge just to have that opportunity. I don't think they can take that lightly, and who knows when they'll ever have the chance again. I think the support is going to be amazing. Everyone is going to come out to support the basketball that'll be played. I'm pulling for them, man, and hopefully by that time, hopefully, I can at least be there to watch and see what happens with them.
Another question from a fan: You played against Thailand a lot, are there any players from Thailand that you enjoyed playing against or are impressed of in particular?
Thailand, I would say, are probably one of our best rivals because we've battled so many times, and we're so competitive. I think we're pretty much at the same level. I've played 15 years, and when I was younger, I played against… I can't even remember the names, but I know these guys like the coach for the recent Thailand national team [in SEA Games 2017] Piyapong Piroon, the shooter. Him and then the other shooter, I forgot his name. They were amazing.
And, of course, Tyler Lamb. I played against him in 2017 at the SEA Games. I mean, he's going to carry that team. We're friends, and I see what he's been doing, been following up on his basketball career. He's amazing, man. He's going to carry Thailand for many years.
Now for the big time question: Who are on your All-Time Asia Cup Starting Five?
I think you definitely have to put Yao Ming in there. He's the face of Asia basketball. [Hamed] Haddadi, I would put Haddadi up there in that category. And my favorite player - I got to see all these guys play in the Asia Cup as well - Fadi El-Khatib from Lebanon was probably the best player I've ever seen in Asia. I have to put Jimmy Alapag in there. A great leader and what he's done for the Philippines. Holding it down for us in Southeast Asia, the little guys you know? And the last spot, it's between Sam Daghles from Jordan and the guy from Iran, [Mohammadsamad Nikkah Bahrami], it's between those two. I could flip a coin for that, but those 5-6 guys are definitely my top picks.
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Basing off these picks: Are you the coach of the team, or would you enjoy being a fan watching this team play?
(laughs) Okay, you know what? I would coach them… but I wouldn't coach them. I would just sit on the bench and be a fan. In the huddle, I would just say go out there and play.
You'd call a timeout every now and then -
(laughs) Just to congratulate them, just to High-Five them, you know. Like, good job, guys!
What have you been doing in your post-playing days?
I took some time off just from basketball in general. Just because I've been playing for so long, but I am now a player development coach for Showcase Basketball, which is here in California. I've been with them, we're coaching kids from like 4-15 years old, so I'm not far from the game. I definitely enjoy being back in the game from this angle, from this perspective.
Are you looking at a coaching career yet?
Coaching is definitely something I can see myself doing and will pursue as well as skill development. It kind of ties in together, and I am learning a lot from this side of skill development. I do have to be here in the states for the next couple of years, but I do plan on going back to Indonesia and helping with basketball development and coaching in a few years for sure.
Aside from coaching would you be interested in being a commentator or a pundit in the Asia Cup 2021 if you had the opportunity?
Yes, I definitely would!
(laughs) Anything basketball, I'm definitely comfortable with. Little fun fact for you, when the ABL [ASEAN Basketball League] first started in 2009, before I even played in the ABL, I actually commentated their first game. Fun fact for everyone out there, so yes, I'm definitely comfortable doing that.
Just one final shout out to the Asia Cup fans and basketball fans in general.
From me over here in California, I just want to say FIBA Asia Cup, everybody, all the basketball fans all around the world, I know it's some tough times, but everything's going to be alright. Just be patient. Things will be better than they were before. Just always stay faithful and grateful.