Moon shines as KBL’s best newcomer

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Moon shines as KBL’s best newcomer

The consensus around the league is that the LG Sakers’ Moon Tae-young (Greg Stevenson) is the best newcomer of 2009. Taken third overall in the KBL’s half-Korean draft, the University of Richmond alum has been voted the best player of his class by six of seven head coaches in the league.

Prior to the start of the season, KCC Egis’ Chun Tae-poong (Tony Akins) and Samsung Thunders’ Lee Seung-joon (Eric Sandrin) were in the spotlight as the best in their class. However, with nearly half the season in the books, Moon has emerged as the best player of the three. He is currently second in the league in scoring average with 21.7 points, which is just behind Jasper Johnson of KT Sonic Boom, who averages 22.18 points per game.

Numbers aside, Korean basketball fans have taken a liking to Moon’s versatile offensive game and gave him the nickname “Moon Kobe,” a reference to Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. Much like the high-scoring Bryant, Moon’s game is usually a high scoring affair. This season, he has already logged two 34-point games.

“He’s the only player in the league who can play the two spot [shooting guard], three [small forward], and four [power forward]. His wide range on offense makes it difficult for our players to defend him,” explained Daegu Orions head coach Kim Nam-ki.

Other head coaches in the league have a similar opinion about Moon.

“He is stable and thrives in close game situations. He’s a notch above Dongbu’s Marquin Chandler,” said Kang Dong-hee of Dongbu Promy.

“He makes good decisions and has solid passing skills and the ability to lead a team on fast breaks,” said SK Knights coach Kim Jin.

“Moon takes full advantage of mismatches and it’s very difficult to face him,” said Lee Sang-beom of the KT&G Kites.

Despite the glowing reviews, Moon has received some criticism as well. Critics say Moon’s knack for scoring and his tendency to take over a game can lead to losses.

“The domestic players lack the ability to finish and that’s why Moon doesn’t pass the ball as often as he’d like,” said LG guard Lee Hyun-min.

The coach who did not tag Moon as the best among the half-Korean rookies was KT’s Chun Chang-jin.

“Moon needs to work on his defense,” Coach Chun said. “I rank Chun Tae-poong above Moon for his hustle and team play.”

All the head coaches agreed that the three rookies are similar in terms of individual skill level. But Chun and Lee have not adapted to Korean basketball as quickly as Moon has.

“Lee’s mediocre play has not helped his team nor his individual value as a player. It’s not necessarily Lee’s fault, it’s also important how a team utilizes a player,” explained Yoo Jae-hak of Mobis Phoebus.

The knock on Chun, the KCC point guard, is that he holds onto the ball too long and takes too many shots.

“In the U.S., where all five players in a starting lineup have individual talent, it is less important to create opportunities for teammates and leaves more room for point guards to score. In Korea, however, it is important for the floor leader to create shots for his teammates. In that respect, Chun needs time to adjust to the style of play here,” said ET Land Elephants coach Yoo Do-hoon.

As the coaches and players explain it, the style of play in Korea is more team-oriented. This leads to complicated plays that can take some getting used to.

“The rookies are still soaking in the nuances of the complex zone and rotation defense that are a big part of Korean basketball,” stated KT’s Chun Chang-jin.

Lee Sang-beom of KT&G added that Kim Hyo-beom of Mobis, a Canadian-Korean who is fluent in the Korean language, took three years to adapt to the style of play in Korea.


By Lee Eun-kyung, Kim Woo-chul [jason@joongang.co.kr]

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