As a respected outside shooter within the region, Ratdech Kruatiwa, also known as J.O., is the first Thai basketball player to ever play professionally in the United States. He was recruited by the Maryland Nighthawks and played for them in the Premier Basketball League for around two years.
The 33-year-old Kruatiwa has been playing for the Thailand national team since he was just 20 years young and has been through plenty of ups and downs suiting up for his nation during his 13 years international career.
He has cherished every opportunity that has been given to him, crediting his father as the most impactful coach he’s had from his boyhood years. Both J.O. and his sister were taught and coached by their father at a very young age, so the love of basketball was always around his family.
J.O. was one of the many young boys that was amazed by and cheered for the dominant Chicago Bulls during the 90’s. Even though he was astounded by every move and incredible shot made by the god-like Michael Jordan, he was equally in love with watching how Scottie Pippen relished his role as sir airness’ sidekick.
As he describes, players who can play smartly at both ends of the floor while creating scoring opportunities for their teammates might get overshadowed by their more flashy teammates, but they are just as important as anyone else on the team.
There’s no secret that Mono Vampire vows to be one of the best in the ABL, especially after their disappointing ABL debut season just two years ago. Being a veteran on the team, J.O. says their successes in Thailand’s domestic leagues have boosted their confidence greatly to perform better in ABL 8. Moreover, he also acknowledges that the league has become tougher than ever, so Mono Vampire will take things one game at a time, executing accordingly to the coaches’ plans.
In fact, J.O acknowledges that they may not have had the best start to the long 2017-2018 ABL season, only winning four out of their seven games. Clearly, there are still plenty of improvements the Vampire can make in their upcoming games, especially after switching their starting world import Reggie Johnson right before the Christmas break.
Not surprisingly, J.O. is optimistic, stating that most of the locals have had similar situations much like what is happening currently, so they will definitely comeback stronger than ever after the short holiday-break.
Before Mono Vampire returned back to the ABL, they played competitively in Thailand, with Jason Brickman, Reggie Johnson and Mike Singletary as the team’s residential imports for roughly two years. Therefore, local players have a special bond with the three of them, and all of them played and learned together like brothers.
Despite Jason Brickman’s familiar face being the team’s only remaining player of the three, Kruatiwa wanted to personally thank all of them for being such great teammates. Teammates who have been through the hard times who stuck around to win several championships together. The brotherhood among them has been firmly established.
Through basketball, J.O. is glad to have made a lot of friends around the region, under the same ASEAN family tree. As he recalls, players usually hang and chat with one another after games, with national pride and rivalries left on the court.
Furthermore, the 6’2” shooting guard also mentioned that he has very good friendships with some Malaysian players, as they invited him to be part of the team during an exhibition game against NBA- Alumni players a few years ago in Kuala Lumpur. It’s still a surreal experience for J.O. to share a court with players like Dennis Rodman, Jerry Stackhouse, Jason Williams, and many others.
From a young man to becoming a father, Kruatiwa admits that he personally doesn’t enjoy travelling across countries to play games as much now. Instead, he hopes to have more time to spend with his family, especially in taking care of his beloved son. It’s a nightmare for him when the team has to travel to two different countries in a row, instances where he may not be able to see his family for about a week.
Situations like these give glimpses of the drawbacks that come with being a professional athlete that fans may not realize. Players have to sacrifice their time with friends and family in order to play the games we all love.
The future of Mono Vampire may still look uncertain at this point, since the team itself has yet to officially announce their new replacement import for Reggie Johnson, but fans can still expect J.O. to be the “Hawkeye” archer from the hardwood perimeter, shooting tough shot after tough shot for his team.