College team topples KGC in Pro-Am event

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College team topples KGC in Pro-Am event

Chung-Ang University beat the Korean Basketball League defending champions Anyang KGC 98-94 on Wednesday, providing a thrilling start to the KB Pro-Am Championship, a newly introduced basketball tournament that pits professional and college teams against one another.

But some players and coaches refused to call it an upset.

KGC benched its key offensive trio - Kim Tae-sool, a 1.8-meter (5 foot, 11 inch) point guard; Yang Hee-jong, a 1.94-meter forward; and Lee Jung-hyun, a 1.91-meter forward - throughout the game held at Goyang Stadium north of Seoul.

Instead, three rookies - Kim Yoon-tae, Lee Won-dae and Kim Min-wook - started against Chung-Ang, the runners-up of the KB College Basketball League in October.

“I thought the key players would come out on the court when we had a big lead,” said Lee Ho-hyun, the Chung-Ang junior who led the team with 35 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Chung-Ang was ahead 73-59 after three quarters.

“But they didn’t bring out their starters in the end and I was sorry about that,” the 1.82-meter guard said.

The KBL introduced the tournament this year to boost the popularity of the sport as the Basketball Festival, an event with a similar format, had done until the mid-1990s.

But fans have yet to react as enthusiastic as the professional teams rest many of their key players to protect them from possible injuries and gear up for the resumption of regular season games.

The KBL, which entered its mid-season break from Monday, will start the second-half campaign next Sunday after the nine-day tournament is over.

“If a professional team were to come out at full capacity, it would be difficult for a college team to beat them,” said Kim Yoo-taek, the head coach of Chung-Ang.

The Seoul SK Knights also went with bench players in a 77-69 victory over Yonsei University on Wednesday.

KBL officials were displeased with what they called a lack of cooperation from the professional teams.

“Once we decided to do this to create a basketball boom, it would be helpful for them to start key players, at least for a short time,” said a senior KBL official.

The Basketball Festival in the 1980s and ’90s featured teams at full strength as there was no professional league until the KBL launched in 1997. Many fans packed into stadiums to watch college teams upset seasoned corporate-sponsored teams. Yonsei even went on to win the 1993-94 and 1996-97 season titles.

Lee Sang-beom, the head coach of KGC, said he believes the championship will contribute to the development of basketball by encouraging competition. But he said the KBL should reconsider the scheduling of the event.

“Our players are physically worn out, and it is too much to ask them to play in an additional event,” Lee said.

Kim, the Chung-Ang coach, agreed with him, saying playing against a stronger professional team would be more inspiring for the college athletes.

By Park So-young, Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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