Rookie challenge spices up All-Star recipe

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Rookie challenge spices up All-Star recipe

The Korean Basketball League is taking a page from the NBA’s All-Star weekend itinerary and will include a match that pits the league’s top rookies against its leading sophomores.

The KBL All-Star games will take place Jan. 30-31, the first time in six years two days of events have been scheduled. Since 2004, the All-Star game had been held on a Sunday. Setting this year’s event apart from previous years is the rookie challenge on Saturday.

“The game features the league’s top rookies and sophomores, but the players don’t pale in comparison to the All-Star squad,” said Woo Joon-hee, a KBL official, in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo.

The league held a half-Korean draft during the off-season for the first time in its history, and this year’s impressive rookie class includes ethnic Koreans Moon Tae-young, Jeon Tae-pung and Lee Seung-joon.

Moon, who plays for the LG Sakers, has been the top scorer in the league. The 31-year-old Richmond University grad averages 21.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists, and his array of smooth offensive moves has earned him the moniker “Moon Kobe,” a reference to Kobe Bryant of the L.A. Lakers.

Quarterbacking the rookie squad offense will be Jeon, a Georgia Tech product who was the first overall pick by the KCC Egis in the half-Korean draft. Jeon is averaging 13.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists for the first-placed KCC squad this season.

Lee, of the Samsung Thunders, rounds off the trio of ethnic Koreans expected to start for the rookie team. The 31-year-old Seattle Pacific University alumnus boasts a season average of 14 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists.

Park Sung-jin, a point guard out of Chung-Ang University who was taken first overall in the domestic rookie draft, is averaging 8.4 points, 1.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists for the ET Land Elephants. Although his season average is not among the league’s best, he has shown flashes of excellence, with his most impressive game so far coming against the KT&G Kites on Oct. 21. Park scored 23 points, six rebounds and three assists in that match-up.

Byun Hyun-soo of the SK Knights and Heo Il-young of the Daegu Orions are the other notable rookies.

The noteworthy sophomores include Ha Seung-jin, Kim Min-soo, Kang Byung-hyun, and Yoon Ho-young.


By Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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