BASKETBALL is truly a global sport.
And for Vietnam, a Filipino in Ryan Monteclaro is at the forefront of the country's development program for the sport.
"What I've been doing for the past two-and-a-half years is to develop their basketball program," said the former Adamson Soaring Falcon who now serves as the technical head of the Saigon Sports Academy (SSA).
What he didn't expect, however, was he'll end up flying the flag of his adopted country overseas.
Monteclaro, 27, has tried to help Vietnamese basketball as best he could, but little did he know that it also entailed him to fly Vietnam's colors as a part of the Saigon Aces in the Chooks-to-Go 3x3 Asia Pacific Super Quest.
"Walang intention na sumali nung una. They were just trying to bring Fiba sa Vietnam, trying to make it big, and then they decided to come up with the team," he said of Vietnamese Basketball Federation (VBF) Director of Development Oliver Vo and SSA founder Connor Nguyen.
Monteclaro, who was picked in the third round of the 2018 PBA Draft by San Miguel, was tapped together with Canadian forward Gabe Riche to build a competitive squad for the 12-team tournament. Vietnamese Kim Ban Vo was placed in the team, and soon after, former FEU Tamaraw Prince Orizu was taken in to complete the crew.
Hastily formed as the team was, the players' competitive fire prevailed as Saigon amassed a 1-1 record in Pool D. The Aces bowed to Aotearoa of New Zealand, 17-13, in their opener, but shocked SSLC of China, 16-15, with Monteclaro drilling the go-ahead freebie with 4.4 seconds remaining.
Unfortunately, the quotient tiebreak did not favor Saigon as they just missed out on the playoffs after placing third in the group.
Though his side failed to progress to the knockout playoffs, Monteclaro believes that this foray was still a big step forward for basketball development in Vietnam.
"First and foremost, Vietnam, in terms of basketball, they're still developing. Yung professional league nila is only on its third year. This is a big step for their basketball program to participate in these kinds of tournaments," he said, sharing that aspiring players in the nation idolize Filipino players like Terrence Romeo and Calvin Abueva.
"Joining these kinds of tournaments will expose Vietnam to the level that they have to make right now. I think they can move forward and improve."
For Monteclaro, the Saigon Aces' performance should also be a cause for celebration for a nation where basketball is still at the formative stages.
"Because of this, they're giving us lots of opportunity. Makikita nila na magandang opportunity ang 3x3 and this is just the first step. Yung beginning lagi ang hardest, but luckily for us, we won a game against China. That's big for Vietnam," he said. "We're excited to go back there and we're happy to have a respectable finish."
Monteclaro couldn't be any happier for a nation he now regards as his second home.
"Second home ko ang Vietnam and I'll always be thankful sa Vietnam, from the heads, the kids, the players, and all of the people behind us," he said.
"I didn't imagine that I'll be back for a tournament here. I've been training with the Chooks-to-Go teams here but sabi ko, I had to finish my contract back in Vietnam. So for me to be able to play here, I'm just so happy. Nakakatuwa kasi yung suporta rin sa amin sa Vietnam, parang yung sa soccer din."