Thank you for listening to Vienna podcast by Seven Million Bikes. My name's Niall Mackay. And I'm your regular host. If you're a regular listener, you know, that. I'm taking a break from hosting season nine I want it to bring some fresh voices to you. So I have an unbelievable.
Trouble lineup of guest host coming to you throughout season names
Interviewing people connected to Vietnam and sharing their story.
Want to give a massive thank you to all the members of the Seven Million Bikes community. This podcast wouldn't exist without your support. It means so much to me and it keeps me going and it keeps me producing episodes.
For you. So even though I'm taking a break from hosting, I'm still fully here. Making sure that we have quality episodes every week for you to listen to. If you are interested in joining the Seven Million. And baked community. The link is in the show notes you can join for as little as $90,000 a month, which is a few bucks.
You can stop at any time. You'll get episodes LA, you'll get free tickets to comedy shows and quiz nights, and you'll get invades. The special members. Only events like our busty party that we just had, which is only for guests. And Seven Million Bikes community members. So if that's something you're interested in, check it out, it really means so much to have your support. We can't produce this shore without return.
Oh, so a massive thank you to Gary McClean, our audio engineer for season name
louis Ray for creating the theme music to VNM podcasts. Would you still get more compliments than the actual podcast itself, but I'm not bitter because it is amazing. So, thank you so much to Lou has for creating that. It's an amazing piece of music. And also for all the simple, the Lewis gives technically and with the equipment. he's another person on this podcast.
Couldn't exist without thank you to everyone that's supported in any way. And of course a massive, special thanks to my wife, Adrian Lopez, my the number one fan of a Vietnam podcast and who. No, none of this would be possible. So massive. Thank you to her and everyone else. Involved to make This happen
So, again, thank you so much. To all of our guests. Who's this season. Thank you so much to our guests and thank you to you for listening. And joy seasoned name of Vietnam podcast.
Welcome to Seven Million Bikes Vietnam podcast. I am Paul Villanova and I will be your guest host coming from both down under and the north somehow in the couple of Vietnam. In this episode, we'll be talking about what it's like to move to Vietnam, to be a professional athlete and how that experience has shaped, who they.
Myself, I moved to Vietnam in 2019 after a long-term breakup to be a basketball coach since moving to Vietnam, I've gained the courage to try new things like comedy that I would never have had that courage to try. If I had not moved abroad, I've run and performed in comedy shows all over Vietnam, as well as returning to coaching basketball as a living, as COVID conditions have improved my guest.
Is a professional basketball player, national team, captain business, owner, and entrepreneur Justin Young. Welcome
to the podcast. Thanks, Paul. It's good to be here. Thanks for inviting me. Yeah, my pleasure.
Okay, Justin. So let's talk to you about where did you grow up?
In the us I grew up in Southern California, a small little city outside east of Los Angeles called Monterey park. I mean, I was born in 93, so been living for almost 30 years now. So yeah, I grew up in the us and my whole life and decided to come out here in 2016 Vietnam.
Okay. And your parents met there?
. Yeah. Both my parents met in the us actually they, were both from Vietnam. And then they, moved to the us after the war and they met somehow in LA I don't know their backstory. And I was born
. Okay. And what do your parents do for work?
Uh, My dad is a mechanic. He does complete auto. Prepares for any kind of car? He has his own business and my mom helps him out with the front office work. And, just helping out with his business. It's been like that since, they met.
Yeah. Yeah. I have sort of had that in common.
My uh, uncle and all the Villanovas in my home city are all mechanics and. American four wheel drive business and they import all American four drive stuff and put lifts on Jeeps and that sort of stuff. Yeah. So, yeah, I've been forward wheel driving with them where they're doing like 80, 90 kilometers an hour on a beach.
it's very scary.
and when did you first come to Vietnam?
My first time. I was a kid the very first time, so I don't remember what year. Maybe around 10, 11 years old came out here with my parents and my family just to visit my parents Homeland. I didn't know what to expect. I was young. When I first came here, there was a lot of dirt roads.
I was in Saigon Homan city. I have very fond memories of how. Underdeveloped Vietnam was, and it was very interesting to me cuz I think that was the very first time that I was outside the country. And just to see how things are outside the us, you know, really opens your mind. So that was the very first time we came out here that was almost 20 years ago.
And then now the next time I was back was 2016.
So let's talk about your university. Experience first. did you get a scholarship offer? Is that how you got to
university? Uh, Yeah. At first, you know, any Asian parents want you to go to the best school possible, you know, want you to get a degree and stuff and stable job?
So basketball wasn't on my mind coming outta high school it wasn't until. That summer after my senior year was where I started to realize that maybe I have a, chance to play, college basketball. So I didn't really take it seriously until around that time, maybe even little bit before the summer going into my senior year of high school is when I started playing like the AAU basketball, the, club basketballs outside to try to get more attention and trying to get better.
So. College basketball wasn't on my mind, but at the same time it was something that I can actually look forward to going into my senior year of high school. I know there was rumors that I was actually good enough to continue on playing my career. So even though division one division two were probably not possible.
There was division three basketball, which was around on my level and, the division three school that I went to. There was no athletic scholarship, but they do give academic scholarships. And that's what I got. It was a partial academic scholarship, thanks to my good grades in high school.
So that was what I got when I went to college and played.
Okay. And uh, your first year in, college playing let's talk purely about art. How was that experience for you?
my first thought was, you know, I could continue playing basketball, which not a lot of kids can say they can do after high school.
So I was really grateful, but at the same time, you know, as a freshman coming into a new program, I had to work, you know, again, all that, all that work I had to continue to work harder to, earn the respect of my teammates, the coaching staff and everybody again. So it was a new experience for me, for sure.
But you know, basketball is the same wherever you go. So that's something that I, took with. Through my high school days and continue to just work on my game. You know, and my first year was, you know, kind of rough up and down new coaching staff, new coaching style, new teammates not knowing if, how would fit into the team, not knowing if I would fit into just the school in general.
So basketball was the main thing that kept me motivated kept me going throughout the school years. It was great. It was, college first year, freshman year, first time out, out your parents home. It was fun. All enough. Yeah.
Okay. And after that first year, second year looks like from looking at the, what I can see online.
you played a lot more minutes and you felt like you had a regular spot on the team and they sort of knew who you were and trusted you.
Yeah. Yeah. So, that summer, I really worked hard. Just trying to, get more minutes, how to compete.
And that's something that, kept me going is the competitive nature I have with basketball and trying to earn my spot as not only more minutes, but also starting five, possibly I've possibly. And you know, it took a lot, of myself to try to get to that spot.
During the summer, pre-season all that stuff was hard work, but I think it paid off. Like you said, I had more minutes a bigger role on the team and I think it just attributes to what I am competitively
mm-hmm So you played four years at college which year would you say was the best team year?
Like the year your team did the best?
Definitely. My junior year, my third year we were ranked nation. I think the highest we got was 15th and the country, which I don't think our school champion has ever done. We did go to the big dance that year NCAA tournament because of, I think it was an at large bid, sorry.
No, it was an at large bid. We won the conference championship that year. So we got an automatic bid. I mean, that was another experience. crazy. But that third year was definitely most Memor.
Yeah. And like, if I look at the stats here, like not from a, basketball person, it looks like basically to hear that you've given up how many shots you were taking per game.
so you sacrificed some of your personal achievements you could get, but like, you said, it was your best team year mm-hmm . Do you think that's. A trait that you have as a, basketball player?
Definitely. for me personally, I don't look at stats as like something that I need to, be a good player.
You look at guys like Draymond green in NBA and, I think that's a big comparison of what I am as a player. I get, players involved. I get play defense. I, do all the little things to try to help a team win. And I think I've learned that. since College. That's when I became, that kind of glue guy, I guess the defensive role player that, people look up to you know, and, you know, offensively, you know, I may struggle at times, but that's something that's gonna be constant as defense.
And that's what I strive for, to be perfect at is that defensive player for the team that they can rely on someone to stop their best player?
Yeah, absolutely. I think every, coach would say that they want that player. They want that player on their team. Like not everyone can be Kobe taken all the shots, making all the points like you need everyone.
And it's a real teamwork thing, right? Yeah. Mm-hmm, in your fourth year, like obviously you progressed and you started every game that season. What were your last sort of memories of that year?
I'd said that my third year was the best year that we had as a team.
But the fourth year, I, believe that it were the closest since we've been with each other for four years now. And we're seniors the leaders on the team, we had a pretty cohesive group of guys. We were I believe in the league first or second, we were tired or something like that first, I think.
And then although we didn't win the champ. In a conference tournament. We came in second, we lost the Claremont McKenna. I still remember that. So we were hoping for an at large bid at the worst, but that season didn't go the way we hoped that I went. So it was really disappointing for us as seniors.
But that was definitely the most cohesive group of guys that we've had as a team. And it showed on the court. you know, I think even though we had our best year, third year, our fourth year was more fun on the court. We were just playing freely and we knew how each other played.
And it was just fun being with each other on the court during that year.
Yeah. If we're speaking about things in a non like to, if we're explaining this to non basketball people, mm-hmm I think something that I personally love about basketball is the, relationships and how you sort of mesh together to form one sort of cohesive.
all of energy, right? Mm-hmm like you, work together to achieve a common goal, which I think if you are someone who doesn't play sport or you play team sport, you never really develop those skills. And I feel like those are skills that you definitely need as an adult. Mm-hmm in other things like
Yes. Yes. I totally agree.
Okay, so you finished a college career. How did you get recruited to come over here?
a lot of it is luck and timing. So when I graduated 2015, I was gonna take a gap year from school, regardless whether I played basketball or not, I was applying for a physical therapy school graduate school and decided to take a year off and apply for a 2016 semester fall.
So that one year I was just, continuing to work out and play basketball for fun and stuff. But then I, got a call from my ex assistant coach at that time in college. And he said there was a tryout for his Vietnamese basketball league. That's that's that just coming up? And that was I guess, spring of 2016, so.
I went to tryouts and it was in Southern California. It was orange in orange county plus to where I live. So it's like might as well go tryout. Perfect. Right. So I tried out and pretty much killed the competition out there. And the coaches at the time, he was the national team coach that was there.
There was a couple players that were playing at the time that was there to check us out. And I mean, all the coaches loved me, so I was immediately offered. A position in one of the teams out here in Vietnam starting the league in 2016. So it happened kind of pretty fast and I was super excited about it.
Like I was pumped up that I get to continue playing basketball and also become a professional basketball player now, which now many people can say after college basketball, So it was all happened by chance. If it was a year earlier, I was still in school. I wouldn't have made it if it was a year later, I would've been in school and graduate school cuz so it's all that timing that worked out, everything happened, the right time.
And if it happened a year before or after, I will probably would not have made it out here cuz I would've just been in school and there was no chance for me to.
Yeah. You were focused on that, right? That seems like the grown up thing to you, this basketball dream. so just, to be clear, that was the inaug first year of the professional league in Vietnam.
Yes. so yeah, it's very cool to think you're a part of that piece of that. Mm-hmm obviously you came over as a heritage import the first year, is that correct? Correct. Right. So, can you explain what that is just for people who
don't understand? Um, Yeah, so our league in our first few years each team had a spot for one world import, which was anyone from any country and also one spot for heritage players, heritage imports, which diploma must have one or both parents that were born in Vietnam.
Mm-hmm both my parents were born in Vietnam, so I applied to that rule. And so I was considered a heritage player.
Yeah. Cool, cool. And then, yeah, must be very exciting to be able to come back to your country, your parents' country and play the game that you loved. That must be very exciting.
obviously you'd been to Vietnam before that, but when you came back as a basketball, . What were your first impressions upon entering Vietnam then? Like in 2016?
At first, I mean, I, I, I knew what Vietnam was like ready. So there was no culture or shock for me. I understand the street food.
I understand the people driving motor Bikes. I understand all the, personality that people had. What I was shocked about was, I didn't know, basketball was a thing out here in Vietnam. So when I was out here as a professional basketball player, no one who knew who that is. I didn't realize that basketball there was, there wasn't even a sport of basketball in Vietnam.
There was like basketball course and stuff. So I was, I was shocked in that aspect where I would go to practice and there would be basketball courts, people. There was actually kids, some kids that were playing basketball, obviously, not as much as today, but there were kids, you know, holding basketball, knowing how to play basketball.
there's grownups that play pickup games, once in a while. And so I was kind of surprised at that point where, you know, It could be a really big thing, basketball, you know, there's, there's, a pretty young population out here in Vietnam that still likes to be active and stuff and, find some sport to play.
So, yeah, totally. I think basketball has a benefit for growth in the fact that it's a cool sport, right? Yes. Like all the famous players are very visible. Mm-hmm like you think of the NBA, even if you're not into basketball at all, you would have heard of Steph Curry. You've heard of Kevin Durant. You've heard of LeBron.
Kobe Bryant, all these guys. It's so play centric and you see their faces are everywhere. Mm-hmm and it's very cool. Right? Everyone wants to be a basketball or a rapper, right? that's that's the, that's the gem, right? Yeah. I had a similar thing when I, was telling my friends about, the offer for me to come here.
Mm-hmm to coach my friends are like, they play basketball in Vietnam. didn't they just have a war there I'm like, that was 30 years ago. Come on now. And then yeah, they said, oh, are you just gonna be like training on like grass, concrete courts or whatever out on dirt courts?
And I'm like, no, I don't think so. And then, yeah, first, basketball courts that I saw in Vietnam were at Eunice. Mm-hmm , which you would know are probably some of the nicer ones you're gonna get annoying. Yeah. Yeah. , which are pretty good. Pretty good. I still would miss the, nice wooden course that back home show.
You get the same back in Cali. Yeah. So your first year you come over and you were based in Saigon for that first year.
Yeah, I was Homan city wings. I asked them to put me in a big city, so. Preferably Saigon. So, I mean, there's two teams in Saigon, SA heat and Homan city wings, and second heat already had a heritage guy.
So, they put me in Homan city wings, which, I mean, it was, it was a great time first time living outside the country. Mm-hmm and living in a big city, like Coachman city was great.
So, so how did that first season go like personally, like as being professional and that sort of stuff? I.
Like excited, super excited for everything that happened. Like every new experience I just took that into my heart and until now. I still remember it. So, I mean, the fans, it was funny the very first game that we had, the fans had no idea what was going on.
Pretty much had to teach the fans how to behave in a game. So Fans would be clapping for both teams anytime they scored basket . So there was really no home court advantage. But it was fun. Like it was new experience for me watching this new sport coming into Vietnam and people not knowing about the sport and having to learn how to watch it and understand it.
And me being one of the pioneers of the league is definitely another thing that I, Don't take it for granted for sure. But that for sure. it went by so fast. I mean, every game that we had, every practice that we had was very memorable. I mean, our team was really good.
It was pretty much stacked. we lost into finals unfortunately, but I, I think that was a very great learning experience for me. I was super excited to come back for the second season. And I just took that going to the next season. And without all that excite.
And obviously your experience is a bit different from other people's foreigners mm-hmm Vietnam experience.
If you were gonna tell someone to move to Vietnam what would you tell them about Vietnam? How would you persuade them?
Um, just have an open mind. I think a lot of people outside the country that have never been here have a pretty closed mind about the country of Vietnam.
Many people I've talked to back home in the us have never been outside the us. Don't have an open mind and think that Vietnam's still very underdeveloped third world. I mean, I don't think Vietnam's a third world country anymore. It's pretty much going up to second. Yeah. So they still think it's an underdeveloped third world country.
Still dirt roads. Violence on the streets and stuff like that. And so I just tell, 'em have an open mind come visit for a week. I guarantee you it's gonna change your mind. Every four that I've talked to that has lived here or passed by here has says Vietnam's one of my favorite countries and I would definitely move back here to work.
So just definitely have an open mind and be open to the cultures that, exist outside your own home country.
yeah. Yeah. I'm sure. Lots of Americans would say, I definitely know this. I grew up in a small country town. Mm-hmm not near a big city. It was like 12,000 people in my town.
And so I did all my schooling there. And then I, graduated high school and moved to the city and I have friends who, stayed in the town and got married within two or three years. And now they have kids who are like 15, 16 . Wow. And they've never lived anywhere else.
They've only ever lived in that town. Definitely go explore. Yeah. Yeah. I think travel opens your eyes and you feel it'll develop more as a person, I think. Sure. For sure you learn more stuff, like not everyth. One way in
school. Yeah. Now everything is learned in school. I say.
so, you know, when I have kids or even to other kids as a role model or someone that people ask questions, just explore different cultures. it could be a different city, just go to a different city go meet different people. I think it would open your mind a lot more and, and definitely change you as a person.
Absolutely. I think there are definite pockets of stuff, living abroad, where you could spend all your time having people from your own country. For me as an Australian in Indonesia, Bali is just full of Australians and it's like $60 us return flight from our home city to there. Oh. So like everyone just goes there.
It's cause it's so cheap. Everyone goes
there. It's probably the closest flight, right? Closest flight. Yeah. From Australia. Right into closest,
regular flight, closest cheapest flight. But I remember going there and hating it, cuz like one there's just Australians everywhere. And then two, all the locals are just saying like good day mates, like and all this sort of stuff.
And I'm like, I wanna be a, I wanna be a weird, nobody that no one wants to talk to. Or just where are you from? I'm with that? I Don. Oh, good day, mate. would you like some veggie might like, no, I don't want that. I've had a friend back home ask me if the food in Vietnam is the same as the food in Bali.
Oh my God. And I'm like, no, no, man. There's the McDonald's is different. Yeah. So you'd finished the first year. And then in your second year, did you stay in SIG on, or did you move up to.
I moved to Hanoi my second year. I played for the, to long warriors now then, and still now to this day I decided not to go back to the whole Jim city wings mainly because there was a whole, restructuring of the organization, general manager was not there.
The whole team is gonna be disbanded. And so I didn't want to go back into a team that was gonna restart again, all new again. But you. Irony of it is that I went to a team that's completely brand new. At first during the draft, my hope was I was gonna go to the hundred buffalos cuz that same year, 2017, I played for them in the Thai league, there was a Thailand super league that Hanoi buffalos has competed in 2017.
So I wanted to play for that coach again. But you. things didn't work out the way it's supposed to go, just like Vietnam is . Yeah. So during the draft the new team common was had the first pick. So they picked me up as their first pick and the rest is history. I mean, I won that. I won a championship that first year, 2017. So couldn't ask for a better situation, I
guess. Yeah. Like new team with the championship. That's great. Yeah, that's great. And obviously you've played every year since that's been. Only championship you've won that. You've been back to the finals. How many other
Third time in 2020. two 20 was the third time. Mm-hmm yeah, This year is the seventh, three, five years last year. I didn't really count cuz of COVID so
yeah. Yeah. So we'll talk about it briefly. Mm-hmm but uh, during COVID you were in a bubble, so paying like you and all the.
Professional basketballers and all the staff mm-hmm and you were playing in like a bubble in a league. What was that
like? Oh, I mean, we, we watched abroad, you know, the NBA, how they did their bubble in the Disney world during COVID. And so I think they weren't trying to copy something like that.
Definitely wasn't anything like Disney world stayed in a hotel 24. Actually not 24 7, a couple hours. We gotta go out to practice at the gym and play the games. It was a beautiful city. But it was in Chan. Unfortunately we couldn't even go out to the beach, which was literally five minute walking.
We can see the beach. So it was a teased every day. But at that time, me personally hated it. I'm sure a lot of players and coaches and everybody who was in there also hat. just cuz we were away from family during the toughest times probably anyone would have ever mm-hmm but the only good thing that was happening there was basketball.
I mean it was due to basketball. We were still there with our teammates people that we were close to we got hung out with them 24, 7 pretty much anybody mm-hmm could be from a different team as well. But the whole, organization was, I mean, at the time I thought it was crazy. Like we had sometimes.
Practice 30 minutes. Sometimes we don't have practice. The court was indoor court in the hotel was messed up. Timing was crazy. There's COVID testing almost every day. it was mess, but you know, looking back at it, it was probably one of the best solutions that we had during the tough times last year.
Yeah. Like you're talking about it being not the best, but obviously there are. Darker things happening, other places of the world. Yeah. With COVID and stuff. Yeah. So it's all relative, I guess. But you can only experience what you are in, right. You can't really empathize. one of the things that struck me is that you couldn't be there for other people in that sort of situation.
Cause you were sort of stuck where you were. Right. Mm-hmm I had that sort of experience in terms of living. And then being funerals for someone that I cared about, that I'd known for a long time back home, and then not being able to return one for, for obvious reasons. And then two I think the biggest thing about, funerals and stuff, when it's about them is being there for, for other people.
Right. Mm-hmm and it's the same thing you're stuck in that situation. You can't be there for other people. You can't. Yes. Yeah.
have you ever done this is gonna be very off track. Have you ever done a zoom funeral?
No, I have not. Never not. That's something new I've never heard about. either. Yeah.
Yeah. I've done one. It was, it was very weird. Mm-hmm I bet you you've never been asked that question before