Updated: Oct 18, 2021
The true love for winning and passion to play is one of the greatest assets of the Vietnam Basketball Association (VBA), making it one of the most underrated leagues for the journey to professional basketball according to Saigon Heat Head Coach and Director of Basketball Kevin Yurkus.
Basketball has been rapidly growing in Vietnam evolving into, as many as, seven teams around the country using a home and away system; and it has raised itself to be considered the second top sport in the country behind soccer.
“It’s really been the backbone for the development of basketball in Vietnam. The VBA has tremendous fan support; our local players have improved immensely over the five years,” Yurkus said in the 54th episode of The Globally Ballin Podcast.
Listen to the full episode and interview with Kevin Yurkus with the link below:
The thing that makes the VBA unique is that players come with a genuine goal of winning for the team alongside improving their skills and not just merely to increase their numbers and establish their resume.
However, the biggest barrier to why some imports refuse to go to Southeast Asia and play in Vietnam is the salary cap. The cap in Vietnam is comparatively lower to that of the other leagues, even though their local teams do draw in a large fanbase.
As a recruiter, Yurkus has witnessed a lot of players who have chosen to sacrifice and play in the VBA despite the low salary, but their skills have improved a lot and were able to shine and eventually play in the countries of which they dreamed.
“Playing in the VBA is definitely been a launching pad to get players to other places – the media exposure, all of our games is live-streamed…and then these players put up monster numbers,” he said.
Yurkus also addressed the speculations about the folding of Asian Basketball League (ABL) saying that it’s just about the COVID-19 pandemic that the league stopped; it is also due to the pandemic that the league will not be finishing the 2020 season because of the international travel restrictions. However, they’re looking forward to 2021.
As a concluding note, Kevin Yurkus advises those who aspire to play professional basketball not to focus too much on the salary cap and which league has a better offer (if they can help it), but, instead, focus on the opportunities itself; such as the opportunities that truly allow for a player to grow.
“I know we’re all looking for jobs that provide the best opportunities for our families and our careers. I see so often players turning down great opportunities in Southeast Asia because they’re not getting a [high] salary,” he said.
“If you play basketball, if you take opportunities, [and] you continue to play, good things will happen. I’ve seen it in so many different players,” he added.
Aside from being the Director of Basketball and Head Coach of the Saigon Heat, Kevin Yurkus is also the National Team Director and National Team Men’s Head Coach for the Vietnam National Team. He has been living and coaching in the country since 2017.
The entire interview of Kevin Yurkus (Episode 54 of The Globally Ballin Podcast) can be found with the links below.
This piece was written by Carla Molina, a common contributor for Globally Ballin check out the link below to see all the articles by Carla Molina that revisit past episodes of the network in bring the story of the guests to article form as well.