In the VBA match of 2023 on August 30, Saigon Heat surprised fans as it faced Danang Dragons without two key players, foreign star Kentrell Barkley and Vietnamese forward Hassan Thomas.
However, following an intense game, coach Matt Van Pelt and his team demonstrated a new level of maturity.
|Saigon Heat’s coach Matt Van Pelt. Photo: VBA
Despite the absence of two main players, the team secured an impressive 86-82 victory against their opponent, who had both a foreign player and a Vietnamese forward.
Saigon Heat’s triumph is particularly notable as VBA has allowed clubs to have up to two foreign players to enhance team quality since the 2021 season, and no team had previously won with an all-domestic lineup since the change.
The success of the Ho Chi Minh City basketball team was fueled by the outstanding performance of Nguyen Huynh Phu Vinh, the towering player from Mekong Delta basketball.
|Nguyen Huynh Phu Vinh scores the winning point. Photo: VBA
“Vinh, a rare figure in Vietnamese basketball standing over two meters tall, has transformed from a player with modest skills five years ago to a key player,” commented coach Le Tran Minh Nghia, a former member of the Vietnamese national basketball team coaching staff, expressing his admiration for Vinh’s growth.
Currently, Vinh is the top candidate for the Domestic Player of the Year award, boasting the highest scoring average among domestic players with 14.5 points per game.
Additionally, he is the only forward to have won the tournament’s MVP title twice.
|Du Minh An calmly handles pressure. Photo: VBA
Alongside Vinh, two other long-standing heroes, Du Minh An and Dinh Khai Tam (Tim Waale), played crucial roles in achieving this significant milestone.
Du Minh An set his personal scoring record at VBA with 25 points in the fourth quarter, while captain Tim Waale excelled in the battle under the basket, setting a rebound record with 15 successful attempts, according to Saigon Heat’s statistics.