KT defying the odds in being on top

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KT defying the odds in being on top

Experts often say a solid floor leader at point guard and a sizable center in the front court are the essential ingredients for a winning basketball team.

But the KT Sonicboom has defied conventional wisdom and gained sole possession of first place in the KBL standings without a formidable inside-outside combination.

KT widened its lead over the second-place ET Land Elephants with a 86-77 win over ET Land on Wednesday night. KT has been consistent throughout the season but recently won eight of its last nine games, improving to 29-10 overall.

With the Sonicboom nursing a 2.5 game lead over the Elephants in the league standings, ET Land will need to win close to all of its remaining 16 regular season games in order to have a shot at toppling KT in the league standings, especially if the Sonicboom continues to play at its current level.

On paper, KT appears to be a mediocre squad. It lacks sizable bodies up front. Charles Rhodes - listed at 203-centimeters (6 foot, 6 inches) - is the tallest player on the KT squad.

In addition, with starting point guard Pyo Myung-il out with an injury, it does not have a true point guard to guide its offense. KT is currently last in the league in rebounds, averaging 29.3 per game, and eighth in the 10-team league in assists with 14.2 per game.

“Opposing teams often disregard us as a weak team,” said KT head coach Chun Chang-jin.

In order to make up for his team’s shortcomings, Chun decided to play Jasper Johnson at the point to utilize his passing and shooting skills and uses Park Sang-oh to drive to the basket.

Despite low averages in rebounds and assists, KT is third in the league in field-goal percentage (57.1 percent) and second in 3-point field-goal percentage (38.1 percent).

When the opposing teams lock down on Johnson or Park, the remaining players rotate in and out of the back court using screen plays to create scoring opportunities. It’s a sign of good team chemistry and the strategy has been strong enough to down teams with all-star caliber centers like ET and the KCC Egis.

In the history of the KBL, winning teams have always had an inside-outside combination of a star point guard and a strong center. Daejeon Hyundai (now KCC Egis) had Lee Sang-min and Johnny McDowell lead the team to three-consecutive league titles starting in the 1997-98 season.

The Daegu Orions also had a similar combination and set the record for most regular-season wins in back-to-back seasons (‘01-‘02 to ‘02-‘03). The 2009-10 season winners Mobis Pheobus had Yang Dong-geun and Brian Dunston.

But don’t tell KT that history tells this story - the Sonicboom is on pace to surpass the single-season record of 40 wins.

“Since we lack size in the front court, it’s often tough for us,” said Chun. “But if our players continue to play the game with passion, we are unbeatable.”

KT travels to Ulsan to face defending champions Mobis, tonight at 7 p.m. Mobis has a lowly 14-25 record this season.

By Kim Woo-chul, Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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