Returning players dominate 1st KBL draft roundOldies were goodies at the Korean Basketball League’s foreign player draft in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Wednesday (Korean time). Nine veterans of Korea’s pro hoops league will return to local courts next season, but most of them in different uniforms.
The KBL has adopted a new foreign player rule for the 2015-16 season, which starts on Sept. 12. One of the two foreign players on each team must be not be taller than 193 centimeters (6 feet 4 inches). The league wants an injection of guards to speed up gameplay and dazzle the fans with playmaking technique.
The KBL said that 120 players attended the three-day tryouts but only 115 entered the draft. In the first of two rounds, eight of the 10 teams chose players with previous experience in the KBL and 9 of the 10 were big men, suggesting that the teams may have somewhat different priorities than the league itself.
The top-ranked Seoul Samsung Thunders selected Ricardo Ratliffe in the first round. The 26-year-old was the key player for Ulsan Mobis Phoebus last season, when they claimed their third straight championship title.
The 199-centimeter center was named the KBL Foreign Player of the Year; he averaged 20.1 points, 10 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.
“I picked him without hesitation,” Thunders coach Lee Sang-min told reporters at the draft. “He is a man with a lot of experience, and his former teammate Moon Tae-young is also with us.”
A former Wonju Dongbu Promy player, David Simon, was the second pick in the first round draft, selected by the SK Knights. After being picked fourth, former Busan KT Sonicboom player Charles Rhodes will be wearing the Anyang KGC uniform.
Courtney Sims, who spent the last three seasons with the Knights, went to the Sonicboom, picking sixth, while his former teammate Aaron Haynes, who is a two-time KBL scoring leader, joins the Goyang Orions with the seventh pick of the first round.
A former Goyang Orion, Troy Gillenwater goes to the Changwon LG Sakers, while Rod Benson rejoins the Promy. The 30-year-old Benson played with the Promy during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, then went to the Sakers and the Phoebus.
Defending champion Phoebus picked a former Orions and Thunders player, Leo Lyons.
In that first round, only the Incheon Elephants and the Jeonju Egis opted for new faces. The Elephants, which had the third pick of the round, selected a power forward, Andre Smith, 30, who has played in Turkey and in Russia.
The Egis used their fifth pick in the round to acquire Andre Emmett. The 32-year-old was drafted by the Seattle Supersonics in 2004 before playing with the Memphis Grizzlies. He has also played in leagues in China, Lebanon, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.
Emmet was also the only player below the 193-centimeter dividing line among those taken in the first round.
In the second round, the Phoebus first chose Dominique Sutton, who opted not to accept a contract and, according to the Phoebus’ coach Yoo Jae-hak, apparently signed with an Italian team. Under KBL rules, that will bar Sutton from playing here for the next five years. The defending champions eventually signed Cuthbert Victor.
Only one former KBL player was picked in the second round. Ricardo Powell, who led the Elephants to the semifinals as team captain, will be back in Korea, but with the Egis.
Matt Bouldin, a 27-year-old shooting guard from Gonzaga University, was the only white player to be picked in this year’s draft; he was selected by the Sakers. Also in the second round, the Orions picked point guard Joe Jackson, who was the smallest player (180 centimeters) to be drafted this year.
The players who are drafted in the first round get $30,000 per month, while the second picks earn $20,000. With contracts in hand, the new import contingent will join their teams next month.
BY JOO KYUNG-DON [email@example.com]