Another professional club will represent Vietnam in the Thailand Basketball Super League (TBSL) after last year’s third-place finishers, the Hanoi Buffaloes, begged off participation for the upcoming season.
Officially named Mekong United, the team will be helmed by former Madgoat Basketball Club head coach Kevin Yurkus, who most recently steered the Can Tho Catfish to a runner-up finish against the Thang Long Warriors in a tight championship series in the 2017 Vietnam Basketball Association (VBA).
Mekong United is expected to be enforced by a combination of core players from both Yurkus-coached teams. World imports Matt Van Pelt and Mike Earl, Thai locals Kevin Lane Dasom, Anasawee Klaewnarong, and Richard Latham from Madgoat will be joined by Nguyễn Le Quoc Cuong and the sibling tandem of Tam Dinh and Sang Dinh from the Catfish.
“I’m excited to be back in the TBSL and very proud to have a team from Vietnam,” said Yurkus. “As you know, the game is very popular in Vietnam and this gives us a chance to continue the growth and popularity of basketball.”
Prior to the start of the 2017-2018 ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) season and while in the midst of their 2017 VBA playoff run, the aforementioned Tam and Sang were linked to the Saigon Heat to help bolster the team’s pool of localized talent, however, things ultimately fell-through as neither would have been eligible for the regional league based off of specific ABL rules requiring players to have at least three years of residency within a country to qualify as a local.
In turn, the TBSL will give them their first taste of professional competition outside of Vietnam.
The team is set to be joined by former Thailand General Equipment (TGE) point guard Frankie Lane Dasom, and former two-time Thailand League MVP ASEAN import, Filipino-American guard Kevin Van Hook, who also last played for Madgoat in 2016.
“We are still working to finalize the roster. The plan is to add additional Vietnamese locals.” added coach Yurkus.
The participation of the Vietnamese squad was officially announced Monday morning during the press conference at Stadium29 in Bangkok. They will join local mainstays Mono Vampire, Mono Thewphaingarm, Hitech Basketball Club, PEA Basketball, Madgoat, and the Dunkin’ Raptors.
Mekong United, which essentially replaces the Buffaloes as the guest Vietnamese team, will be joined by two returning foreign teams: Kabayan (Philippines) and Adroit (Singapore). Laos’ youth team from Luang Prabang, who had played in the recent Thailand Basketball Development League (TBDL), is also slated for a return campaign.
The new TBSL season will commence on the 27th of January and will run until the 31st of March.