Dear anyone who loves basketball,
I’m here to let you guys know that anybody can make it and fulfill their dreams. It just takes determination, hard work and a go-getter mentality.Here, I’m going to share my experience from hearing about the tryouts, what I did to prepare for it, being inserted into the draft pool, and then finally hearing my name being called during the VBA Draft.
Before I get started with all that, I wanted to share my story of how my love for basketball began and the reasons why I’m here. Opportunities to play professionally seldom ever come up, so the formation of a professional league in Vietnam is a very big deal and is an open door for regular guys like me to be able to make it.
It all started when I watched the older kids play at our local neighborhood court when I was 8 years old, but I was too small to play with them. I begged my mom to take me every day just to watch and learn how to play.
Eventually, I didn’t let my feelings of being too small, too young, have an effect on me. I practiced constantly and when I was able, I played to prove I was good enough to run with them. Those kids accepted me as a baller and at that very moment, my passion for the game of basketball began.
By middle school, I grew up to be 5’10” and was playing power forward. We played some of the toughest schools in the state and were even invited to the NBA All Star Jam Session, where our games were broadcast. Teenage kids, playing in front of thousands watching. It was a real exhilarating feeling. Only the best basketball teams got invited to those, so it was very exciting.
As I began high school, my transition to the guard position was pretty smooth. I made varsity as a freshman with potential through the roof, played all the time and was able to dunk effortlessly. Life was good.That all changed when I transferred schools.
At this new school, politics played a huge role on who got playing time; not who had more talent or who worked harder.Although I worked very hard, I gradually made my way to the end of the bench my senior year, even though I knew I was better and more hard working than some of the guys that started. This hit me hard.
That was my rock bottom, and it scarred me. I almost gave up basketball. It kept me up at night a few times because I loved basketball and I couldn’t understand how unfair some coaches could be.
My dream of playing in college and then the pros slowly started to fade. I didn’t want to give up on basketball, I loved the game too much… so I decided to stay on the team, to work on myself and my game. Even though I knew I wouldn’t get much playing time. I don’t regret staying on the team at all though as I learned a lot about myself. I also played AAU so I was able to get minutes elsewhere.
“As an Asian-American, your parents probably wouldn’t support the idea of you some day playing professional basketball, and mine didn’t either.”
In addition to being benched, I also felt unsupported at home. My parents never went to any of my games and didn’t take my dream of playing basketball seriously. My mom and dad, Vietnamese refugees, worked 12 hours a day to provide for our family. That was what was important at the time and I completely understand that now.
As an Asian-American, your parents probably wouldn’t support the idea of you some day playing professional basketball, and mine didn’t either. They had other visions for me that required studying and getting good grades to achieve a respectful title such as a doctor, or engineer, etc.
Finally after all these years, my mom watched me play one game and recognized my passion for the game. She accepted me playing and being happy, as long as I also thought about my future and schooling.
Here she is at one of my games. One of the fondest memories I will cherish.
Soon after, I was offered to play college basketball but I chose to attend Baylor University on an academic scholarship instead because the day we found out I got accepted, my parents literally cried in front of me. I gave up my opportunity to play college basketball to make them proud.
I didn’t stop though.
At Baylor I was on the practice squad and managed for the basketball team. I played with both the men’s and the women’s basketball team as well, they were #1 in the entire country. Don’t let the word woman fool you, those girls would wreck against guys everyday.
Training with them was very helpful and definitely improved my game. At Baylor, I found a balance of basketball and books. Four years later I graduated with a degree in Health Sciences.
Throughout the years, I’ve constantly been playing in leagues. I never stopped playing, even though my dreams of playing professionally had faded. I kept playing because I loved basketball and I had so much fun doing it.
“I started training my body everyday, playing everyday and if you do this, trust me, you are bound to improve your game.”
Moving forward to now, I heard of the VBA once Tam Dinh went to the 2016 tryouts. I was amazed that my friend was able to make it to the pros. We’ve played on the same team for years, and he’s a great teammate of mines and an even greater friend. Anyone who’s played with him would know, he has a bright future.
This was when the reality of it set in; playing professionally was a possibility for me. I started preparing my body for the next tryout. Initially, I of course thought it would be awesome if I could play on the same team as Tam and Sang.
It sounded like it would be an amazing experience. What better way to fulfill a dream then alongside some of your friends? (I didn’t really know if I could play with them or not, I was just dreaming.)
About 3 months before the tryouts, I started having my fiancé record all of my league games so that I could have material for a highlight video to submit to the VBA. I started training my body everyday, playing everyday and if you do this, trust me, you are bound to improve your game. I sure did.
Time flew by so fast, the VBA Heritage Players 2017 tryouts finally came around and I was ready as I could be. We booked our flight to California and I was ready to try my best to compete for a spot.
There, I collected myself, my confidence, my fears, my nerves, my excitement, my everything and I bundled it all up into the energy I used to show the coaches what I had. I really enjoyed the experience and meeting everybody there.
It was a great feeling to know I was one of the five players selected out of 32. I felt as though my dedication, my growth and improvement, and the path that led me to this very moment was God given.
June 13, 2017. Draft night is here.
Although the time for tryouts crept up on me very quickly, waiting for the draft dragged on and felt like forever. I was so anxious because I knew not everyone in the draft pool would be selected. I prayed everyday and never stopped trying to improve myself. Although, I would be happy to go to any team, I prayed to go to Ho Chi Minh City because my family lives there and would love to be near them.
Once the draft started, hands sweaty, heart beating fast. My feelings of anxiety were amplified. It was pretty gut wrenching not knowing if I would be selected or not. This is probably how most of the guys were feeling during the draft. The unknown is scary but I was hopeful. Sitting there watching as others got called before you. Then finally…
“With the fourth pick of the VBA draft, the Ho Chi Minh City Wings would like to select, Anthony Vo.”
“Work hard, better yourself and prove the doubters wrong.”
Before this, I wasn’t sure how I would react. Hearing my name called, I was initially in shock. Then, feelings of relief and complete happiness overcame me. In that moment, I just thanked God. He had a plan for me all along to play the sport I love, even if life didn’t happen exactly the way I thought it would, I’m thankful for where I am now. This is my story.
As I prepare for the upcoming VBA season, I hope I can inspire anyone to just keep doing what you love. No matter the obstacles you go through or the people that tell you, you can’t. Work hard, better yourself and prove the doubters wrong. And you too could some day share your story like how I am.
See you guys in the VBA season.