Taj Gibson goes to Thailand: Part III
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Taj Gibson recently returned from an NBA trip to Thailand for the Jr. NBA Thailand 2014 National Training Camp presented by Foremost. Gibson helped coach participants from throughout the country vying to become Jr. NBA Thailand All-Stars and play against counterparts from other countries. The NBA recently added similar programs in Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia. There was an open Selection Camp that led to 64 boys and girls aged 14 and under advancing to the National Training Camp at the New International School of Thailand, where Gibson helped provide counseling and training. Gibson with the assistance of NBA International Communications provided a three-day diary of his experiences that will appear this week in Bulls.com. Here is Part III, the last day.
“I had a good morning workout and we waited until about 1 p.m. to go to the gym. I knew it was a big day because they said all week they were going to make cuts. But I didn’t anticipate the intensity of it. When I got there the kids were all smiles until the names were being called. They had to make the cuts for the big final 20 and after the 20 they were going to make another cut to the final 10 to14. It was tough. As the guys were calling out the names, I was just sitting back. I was watching the reaction on these kids’ faces. A lot were really disappointed; a lot of them were crying. That kind of took me back to when I was little because of never making a team, going through that heartache and pain. But it was a good heartache and pain because it makes you work harder, to want you to fuel your fire that you want to be successful. I kind of did that with a lot of the kids. I kind of grabbed them and walked around the gym with them while they were crying and it kind of made me want to cry because I understand their pain. After 20 were chosen, then we played more games. They played an all-star game to make the final cut to 14. We had a couple of strong girls. The boys’ all-star game was great. We had a couple of kids I was watching the whole trip who really worked hard, but did not really receive the recognition they were supposed to receive. One of the kids I followed. His number was 73. This kid worked hard at every drill. He played hard, he rebounded the ball very hard. He was one of those guys you never know what he was going to do but once he plays hard he can be successful. He had an awesome all-star game, like the best he played in the whole camp. He had like 22 points and at least nine rebounds. He was really dominant and I was really happy for him. He understood I wanted him to be successful in the camp because of how hard he worked and it was great. The all-star game was a success. But the sad part about it was we had to pick the last 14 of all those boys and girls. They handled it a little better, the last 20, but you could see a lot of disappointment. As the staff was deliberating on who was going to get picked, the coaching staff did a really good job. We were down there deliberating and they were really talking about these kids, their full names, really showing how much love they have for these kids, every coach going to battle for each kid. It was something. I wish a lot of people could see because these coaches really love these kids. Finally, when we made the final 14 cuts, the madam ambassador came. She did a great job speaking. I didn’t know she could speak such good Thai. We had the sponsors come, Foremost, Spalding, TrueVisions. They were great. Everybody came up and spoke. The families of the kids were extremely happy. For these people who didn’t really know that much about basketball, their moms and dads were really into the game knowing about jump shots. They really love three point baskets out here. But once again when we got down to the final cuts, the disappointment on a lot of these kids’ faces; it was like the end of the world. But the bright side about it was the kids who were chosen you could see how happy they were. It was like the best moment. One of the best stories of the camp was as they went through the numbers (of those who made it), the final kid, number 55. He played like a Charles Barkley player the whole camp. I could tell he really was disappointed of all the kids his number was not being called. But we had one more slot left. When they called his name he went from almost getting ready to cry to running up and grabbing his jersey and grabbing his medal. He was so happy. It was amazing. But the sadness on these kids’ faces after that was really hard to take in for me. The bright side was the kids who made it were so appreciative. They kept praying and thanking everybody; they were so appreciative, so respectful. I wish a lot of kids from the states would kind of be like that sometimes and appreciate some of the things they have in front of them. The kids here go through a lot just to get an ounce of the respect, an ounce of going to see a basketball game. They did all this for a week just to go see a free basketball game, to show their support for the NBA and that speaks volumes. The trip was very humbling for me. Going around and seeing everybody throughout the city, seeing the workers, all these people working crappy jobs, out there on their knees building buildings, fixing pavement. But every time they see you they smile, they show you respect, they bow their head no matter what. Any time of day. You can be the richest guy, the poorest guy. Everybody bows their head and shows respect no matter what. It was real humbling for me to see that. I can take some of that back to the states and also use it for my own benefit. I had a great time. All the sightseeing, going to the mall, learning new dialects, learning a new language. One of my favorite words is sa-wat-dee, like hello, good morning. The people. They smile so hard when I say it. They are so happy I know a little bit of Thai. It was a real humbling experience. I’m looking forward to coming back in the future. I met so many different Americans who moved over here and are so happy and appreciative of the way people are here.”