Vietnam registered a historic feat Tuesday night following its 86-71 rout of Indonesia to capture the bronze medal in the 30th Southeast Asian Games men's basketball at the Mall of Asia Arena.
American-Vietnamese Christopher Dierker and Justin Young spearheaded Vietnam's surprise podium finish in men's basketball after putting up solid numbers to frustrate Indonesia and its new coach Rajko Toroman.
Dierker, the 2018 Vietnam Basketball Association Heritage MVP, knocked down 18 points, to go along with 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in 34 minutes of play.
On the other hand, Young, the 2016 VBA Defensive Player, contributed with a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds, along with 3 assists.
"Credit Indonesia, they are a really good and young team. It's a different Indonesian team than we've seen from the past," said Vietnam's American coach Kevin Yurkus.
Yurkus, currently head coach of the Saigon Heat in the Asean Basketball League, admitted that without Dierker and Young, who honed their basketball skills in the United States, it wouldn't have been possible for Vietnam to secure the bronze medal.
"We got contributions from a number of different guys, but this guy (pointing to Dierker) came alive and he spent like the entire tournament and played like an MVP," said a beaming Yurkus. "He helped carry his team to the first medal in history of our country."
The American coach pointed out that familiarity with the Vietnamese players played a huge role in their buildup for the SEA Games.
Yurkus said he and Dierker have known each other back in the US, while he's also competed against Young in the VBA.
The amiable Vietnam national coach guided the Cantho Catfish to two straight VBA Finals appearances on the way to a championship in 2018. And that's where Yurkus faced Young, who then starred for the Thang Long Warriors.
"As a national team, we've been working together just since the middle of October, but knowing these guys in advance, their strengths and weaknesses, what they like and what they don't like, we've been planning on this (national team) for more than a year as we prepare for the SEA Games," shared Yurkus, who started his Southeast Asian coaching circuit with the Madgoat Basketball Club in Thailand a few years back.
"So we started with these two guys. Without these two guys, we're nowhere near winning the medal, but these guys bought in," he added.
"A lot of the stuff we did wasn't fun, a lot of our workouts, a lot our early morning running, but without these two guys, being the leaders and professionals on and off the court, well, it's a pleasure working with these guys."
Yurkus said they intend to build on this bronze medal finish by competing in more international tournaments in 2020 and beyond.