A History-Making Return to Laos
2018: Forty-three years after thousands of refugees began leaving war-ravaged Laos to settle in new countries like the United States of America, their grandchildren would return to make history. Jose Nouchanthavong and Bobby Syvanthong became the first known Lao Americans to play professional basketball when they signed with the Thai Basketball Super League (TBSL) to play for the team that represents their ancestral homeland.
Jose Nouchanthavong was born in Lowell, MA, and traces his ancestry to Vientiane and Savannakhet Laos. He grew up in the city of Westbrook, Maine, and was a member of the Westbrook High School basketball team.
Jose went on to play with the Southern Maine Community College Seawolves after graduating from high school. During the 2013/2014 season he scored 455 points, had 73 steals, 147 rebounds and 170 assists. Jose broke several team records and earned first-team United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) All-American honors. Jose transferred to the University of Southern Maine (USM) where during his senior season he scored 312 points for an average of 18.4 points per game.
In 2018 the 6’2” Nounchanthavong signed to play professionally in the TBSL becoming the first known Lao American to play professional basketball. The TBSL is made up of teams from several Southeast Asian countries and allows each team to field a limited number of foreign players in order to preserve opportunities for locals while making the league internationally competitive. Jose played for the team that represent Laos, Luang Prabang, and the Bangkok Tigers during 2018. In 2019 he headed to Indonesia to play with the Methodist-2 Hawks and then to the Malaysia-Bangkok Beavers before returning to TBSL-Luang Prabang for the 2020 season. Jose signed a contract in 2021 to play with Uratu BC of the Armenia Basketball League A. Jose is still early in his basketball career so be sure to check back for updates.
USM Photos by Jason Johns & courtesy of the University of Southern Maine
About this Article
Information for this article is from the University of Southern Maine, SMCC, and interviews with Jose Nouchanthavong. A special thank you USM Director of Athletic Communications Christina Cracolici.