Son of a legend, Hur Woong looks to find his own path

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Son of a legend, Hur Woong looks to find his own path

It’s never easy to follow in the footsteps of a legendary father.

Hur Woong, the son of KCC Egis head coach Hur Jae, struggled at times to meet the pressure of living up to his dad’s reputation, but has emerged this season as a star senior-year forward for Yongsan High School’s basketball team.

The 18-year-old guard has had to deal with comparisons to his father throughout his young career. The comparisons are only natural when considering his father is ranked among the best guards in the history of Korean basketball. He was a blue chip prospect coming out of Yongsan High School decades back and played college ball for Chung-Ang University.

Following a successful collegiate career, the smooth-shooting guard led Kia Motors to seven league titles and won the Most Valuable Player award three times. Senior Hur was the centerpiece of the national basketball team in the 1980s and 1990s and scored a record-setting 60 points against Egypt in a 117-115 win at the 1990 World Championships, the most ever in international competition.

As the son of a legend, Hur Woong’s performances were surveyed with great intensity from the time he started playing organized basketball in 2006. Last year, Hur Woong was selected to the U-18 national team, but because he had only averaged 5.4 points and 2.1 rebounds at Yongsan High School leading up to the selection, many wondered whether he was picked only because of his father’s credentials.

“It was only natural to receive such criticism because I was not playing well,” said Hur. “After that point, I worked harder than anyone to improve my game. Over the winter, I came out to the gym early in the morning and didn’t leave until late at night. I was totally focused on improving my game.”

Despite the pressure that comes with being a son of a basketball legend, junior Hur wears number nine, the same number his father donned during his playing days.

The number on the back of his jersey is not the only similarity he shares with his father, either. Woong also takes after his father’s strong work ethic. It’s the many hours Hur Woong spent in the gym honing his skills that resulted in a drastic improvement in his game this season and being named the captain of the Yongsang High squad.

Hur Woong’s improvements were evident at the National High School Basketball Tournament this month. Despite failing to win his team’s fourth consecutive title and losing in the finals to Kyeongbok High School, 65-60, on Monday, Hur showed shades of his father by leading the tourney with a scoring average of 25 points per game, even leading all scorers in the finals by dropping 24 points.

“In comparison to last year, Hur has improved all facets of his game,” said Busan Jungang High School head coach Kang Yang-hyeon, whose team lost to Yongsan in the quarterfinals. “He’s a scoring threat but can now also read games. On top of that, he is playing with confidence, making it harder for opposing teams to defend him.”

Jae, who took in the game from the stands, remains a harsh critic of his son and thinks he still has a ways to go before he can be evaluated as a polished prospect.

“Woong is merely scoring a lot of baskets because the team’s top scoring option graduated last year,” said Jae. “He has to work harder.”

For Woong though, losing in the finals was a new call. “This is the most painful loss of my brief career,” said Hur in a post-game interview. “From this point on, I do not want to be referred to as my father’s son. I will continue to improve my game so people start recognizing my game. I really want to win the remaining tournaments this season.”


By Kim Woo-cheol [jason@joongang.co.kr]

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