Now with Moon, nat’l team aims for the stars

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Now with Moon, nat’l team aims for the stars

Though the 2012 London Olympics are only a year away, the Korean national basketball team knows it has a long way to go before it can qualify.

And the first step on that road is the William Jones Cup in Taiwan, where Korea will get a good measure of where it’s at ahead of the FIBA Asia Basketball Championship in September, head coach Hur Jae said yesterday.

“The Jones Cup, [which begins Saturday], will be our first step on the road to the Olympics,” Hur said after a team training session at KCC Gymnasium in Yongin, Gyeonggi. “Our first goal [in the Jones Cup] is to build up some teamwork and let players get into top form.”

The last time Korea qualified for the Olympics was 1996 and the team would love nothing more than to compete against the world’s top players. But in order to get there, Korea has to win the Asia Championship in Wuhan, China, because there’s only one ticket to London for the entire Asian confederation.

Eight of the nine nations participating in the Jones Cup will be at the Asia Championships, including host Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Jordan and Korea. South Africa will be the only non-Asian nation in Taiwan.

Korea leaves for Taiwan today and will play its first game tomorrow against the UAE. Its last game will be against Taiwan on Aug. 14.

So far, Hur’s team is off to a good start - it won the East Asia Basketball Championship in Nanjing, China, two months ago, to earn a spot in the Asia Championship.

But Hur emphasized that in the Jones Cup, the team will begin more advanced training, testing several game strategies and finding out its strengths and weaknesses.

“We mostly had physical training before the Jones Cup,” Hur said. “We will implement several game tactics and build up our team plays.”

The team is expected to test new strategies around Moon Tae-jong, who recently joined the national team after being granted Korean citizenship. The 35-year-old Moon was born Jared Stevenson and officially became Korean last month with his younger brother, also a professional basketball player.

Now that Moon has joined the team, Hur expects him to step up as the team’s main scorer. “[Moon]’s got good shooting sense,” Hur said. “I think he will be our troubleshooter.”

Moon’s style in the Korean Basketball League is to quickly and accurately drain jump shots while still dishing the ball out unselfishly to teammates. But in order to secure his role on the national team, Hur said that Moon needs to improve his stamina. “I expect him to do his job from the outside,” Hur said. “But since he has been training only two or three days, he needs to start improving his stamina.”

Other national team members also welcomed Moon’s addition. Wonju Dongbu Promy center Kim Joo-sung said that the team is stronger with Moon and is confident it will perform well in the Asia Championship.

“Our outside attack is much better now we have Moon,” Kim told Yonhap News Agency yesterday. “If we build our teamwork in the Jones Cup and avoid injuries, I think we have about an 80 percent chance of playing will in the Asia Championship.”

Said team captain and point guard Yang Dong-geun: “China and the Middle Eastern countries are strong, but we have built some knowledge from previous two tournaments, so I think we have a good chance to win [the Asia Championship].”


By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]
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