Vietnam is undoubtedly a football country. It’s similar to how India loves the game of Cricket and how hooked the Philippines is to boxing. And while Vietnam’s national football teams, both men and women, are hitting goals here and there, Vietnamese basketball players are making noise just as loud.
We’re talking about the 76th edition of the National Basketball Association's (NBA) annual draft held last week where two basketball players of Vietnamese descent made it to the official list of new NBA players — Jaylin Williams signed by the Oklahoma City Thunder and Johnny Juzang is joining the Utah Jazz.
Nineteen-year-old Jaylin, whose mother is of Vietnamese descent, became popular as Arkansas Razorbacks’ big man. The 6’10” power forward/center impressed his coaches when he finished fifth in the entire NCAA (The National Collegiate Athletic Association) in total rebounds, fourth in defensive win shares, and number one in total charges drawn in his sophomore season. Those marks earned him 1st Team All-SEC, SEC All-Defensive Team, and an NCAA West Regional All-Tournament Team recognition.
His NBA draft note reads: “Jaylin Williams is a hard-working do-it-all center who has great intangibles and makes winning plays. His impact on the game doesn’t always show up on the stat sheet but he’s a high-level prospect who has NBA scouts’ attention. Jaylin isn’t a player who needs the ball in his hands much and is very effective at setting screens and playing team offense, without the need to look for his shot. He’s a solid offensive rebounder and a good overall glue guy who does the dirty work.”
The NBA sees him become a capable floor spacer in time. They also noted he has pretty good shooting form and is starting to expand his range.
NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum, who’s half Vietnamese, announced Jaylin’s name on draft day. Jaylin’s mother was born in Saigon before immigrating to the US in the 1970s, while Mark was born in Vung Tau, Vietnam in 1969.
But the celebration doesn’t end there because just moments later, Johnny Juzang had been signed by the Utah Jazz, making him the second player of Vietnamese descent to be drafted into the biggest American league.
According to the fans and basketball enthusiasts, the 21-year-old Creole-Vietnamese American is similar to Dillon Brooks but more advanced at this stage in his career. Johnny spent one short season with Kentucky Wildcats before opting to transfer closer to his hometown of Los Angeles and playing with UCLA Bruins.
His NBA draft note reads: “Juzang might not blow you away with athleticism but he’s got a good frame and good size for a wing and sneaky quickness. His handles are advanced and help him blow by defenders despite not having an elite first step. Has an advanced mid-range game and can score in many ways, using quick-release jumpers, floaters and scoop shots to score in the lane.”
The 6’6.5” shooting guard and his brother Christian are both proud of their Vietnamese heritage. Christian just led the Vietnamese National Team at the recent SEA Games held in the country.
The annual NBA draft event is where teams in the NBA choose players who have never played in the NBA before, those who are eligible and wish to join the league.
If a team chooses a player, that player cannot sign a contract to play for any other team. Sixty players are selected in each draft. No player may sign with the NBA until he has been eligible for at least one draft. These are typically college players; foreigners (even those playing outside the US) are also eligible to be drafted.