He’s short in stature, but looms large on the court

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He’s short in stature, but looms large on the court

Dongbu Promy’s rookie point guard Ahn Jae-wook is already drawing comparisons to his head coach, and understandably so.

The 23-year-old rookie has earned the nickname “Little Kang Dong-hee” because Ahn and his 44-year-old coach Kang share many similarities, from attending the same schools to being star point guards of their time.

Ahn was drafted in the first round - eighth overall - of the 2010 KBL Amateur Draft held in February. And Kang established himself as one of the top all-time point guards. The two graduated from the same elementary, middle and high schools in Incheon. And to top it off, both played collegiate basketball for Chung-Ang University.

There’s another interesting twist of fate involving the two. At Dongbu’s preseason training camp in Tokyo, Ahn revealed that while in elementary school, he once reprised the role of Kang in 1998 for a television show that helped Kang relocate a childhood crush.

“I was practicing in the gym one day when a camera crew entered,” Ahn said. “The person who introduced himself as a producer said my crew cut hairstyle and small stature made me an ideal candidate for the role.”

Kang was able to find his first love from his elementary school days through the show.

“That was Jae-wook?” asked Kang, laughing. “I need to look for the video cassette.

“I remember seeing Ahn for the first time when he was playing for Songdo High School. He stood out among his peers because he was so much smaller than the other boys on the team. To be honest, I didn’t think he would be able to make the pros due to his small stature.”

Kang decided to select that very player in this year’s draft. Ahn is small for even the point guard position - which is usually reserved for the smallest player on the squad. Ahn is listed at 174.8-centimeters (5 feet 7 inches), making him neck-and-neck with Ok Beom-joon of the SK Knights (174-centimeters) for the distinction of being the shortest player in the league.

Despite flashing talent, Ahn did not attract a lot of attention from pro scouts due to his height.

“I tabbed him as an excellent player early on in his college career,” Kang said. “He is short, but he’s quick and has a good fundamental skill set. I saw a lot of potential in him. He should fit in fine with our club.”

Dongbu has plenty of size up front in Kim Joo-sung (205-centimeters), Yoon Ho-young (198-centimeters) and Rodrigue Benson (206-centimeters), making it easier for smaller guards to provide support from the back court.

“It’s every guard’s dream to play with Kim Joo-sung,” said Ahn.

Having earned the moniker of “Magician on the Court” during his playing days with Kia and LG during the 1980s and 90s, Kang boasted an impressive combination of dribbling skills, court vision, leadership and a reliable jump shot. Easily ranked as one of the top, if the best point guard of his generation, Kang can provide plenty of coaching and should pay big dividends in Ahn’s development.

“It’s a bit too much to be mentioned in the same breath as my head coach at the moment,” Ahn said. “But I will work hard to justify the comparisons.”

By Lee Jung-chan [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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