Rookie Kim: ‘The future of basketball’

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Rookie Kim: ‘The future of basketball’

LOS ANGELES, California - Even though Kim Jong-kyu is the youngest player training with the national basketball team, the 19-year-old freshman at Kyung Hee University is getting a lot of attention these days.

Kim has a good shot at becoming the first teen to compete for the national basketball team at an Asian Games since Hyun Joo-yup at the 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games.

Listed at 207 centimeters (6 foot 8 inches), Kim has good height and speed and is already being compared to versatile Dongbu Promy center Kim Joo-sung.

“Jong-kyu is the future of Korean basketball,” said veteran forward Kim Sung-chul, 34, of the KT&G Kites and the eldest player at the camp.

Kim Jong-kyu, for his part, has been soaking in as much as he can and has been enjoying the experience of training and playing with the national team. Kim did not receive any playing time in the exhibition game against the National Basketball Developmental League All-Stars on Tuesday but remains upbeat about his role on the team.

“It’s been great spending time with the veteran players and I’m really happy to be just a part of the national team,” Kim said. “I didn’t get to play in the game because I’m not good enough yet.”

Kim’s positive attitude and work ethic have scored high with the coaching staff and the veteran players.

“Our technical adviser Lenny Wilkens rates Jong-kyu very highly,” said assistant coach Lee Hoon-jae. “He said that players who have a positive mindset and are fearless have infinite room for growth.”

“Jong-kyu is still young and lacks veteran savvy,” said Kim Sung-chul. “But he’s a young player with good height and speed. If he works hard, he will become an even better player.”

At the camp being overseen by Wilkens and head coach Yoo Jae-hak, a player with high morale, determination and pride scores high.

“If a player does not fit into the overall scheme of things, we have to cut the player even if he is a star player,” said Wilkens, who was an assistant coach on the 1992 American “Dream Team” and is second on the NBA’s all-time wins list among head coaches. “National teams tend to be comprised of star players. However, if they don’t have the team spirit and national pride, they don’t deserve to be here.”

Yoo has been swift in his decisions concerning such matters. Early in the national team invite, Yoo cut forward Kim Min-soo of the SK Knights for displaying “poor attitude.” The head coach with a no-nonsense attitude does not hold any reservations.

“If recognizable names like Ha Seung-jin, Kim Seung-hyun and Bang Sung-yoon do not recover in time from their injuries, I will not include them on the team,” Yoo said.

The national team will continue its training camp in Los Angeles until Aug. 27. The coaching staff will announce the final roster for the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games next month.

By Lee Eun-kyung []
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