Weekly ReviewKBL getting ready for the playoffs
The KBL playoffs are just around the corner and the playoff schedule will be soon finalized.
As of Feb. 15, Ulsan Mobis Phoebus and Jeonju KCC Egis are tied for first. Goyang Orion Orions are following closely just two games behind. Anyang KGC and Seoul Samsung Thunders, ranked fourth and fifth, have also gained a spot in the playoff.
Defending champion Phoebus was in second place until Sunday, when it topped Seoul SK Knights and tied the season record with the Egis. Ace guard and team captain Yang Dong-geun showed his tenacity in the crucial match to score nine points, six assists and two steals. When asked about Phoebus losing its number one spot to KCC, Yang said, “We brought this on ourselves when we lost our concentration mid-season. It’s meaningless to assign blame to anyone at this point. What’s important now is this final week. The team will do its best.”
Phoebus, with only three games left, have a good chance of returning to the throne as the winner of the regular season. However, KCC seems to have momentum at the moment with its nine-game winning streak. Orions are in a bind, as it can only claim the regular season title if both Phoebus and Egis lose their remaining matches.
Meanwhile, a buzzer-beater was the game changer for both the KGC and the Thunders on the 14th. Yet, one team smiled while the other hung its head.
For KGC, a buzzer-beater is what saved its neck during a match against Busan KT Sonicboom. Mario Little drained one beyond the arc at the buzzer when KGC was behind by two points. Thanks to Little’s game-saving shot, KGC secured its ranking at fourth.
Player in focus: Joo Hee-jung (Samsung Thunders)
Seoul Samsung Thunders point-guard Joo Hee-jung scored two three-pointers while grabbing three rebounds and dishing out five assists in a match against Changwon LG Sakers on Sunday.
The 39-year-old guard is one of the KBL’s veteran players and holds various KBL records, including the most games played (976), the most assists (over 5300) and the most steals (1475). Joo has only missed 11 games in his entire career.
His astounding record come not from his gift as a player, but also from his work ethic and dedication to training.
When asked about how much he trains, Joo said, “I have been shooting 500 baskets a day since my fourth year as pro. I think I must have thrown at least 1.5 million practice shots on my own.”
Thunders manager Lee Sang-min can attest to Joo’s hard work. Joo is often the hardest working player in defensive drills during practice this season, lowering his body and moving around the court faster than even the younger players. Thanks to his example, other players on the Thunders also seem to have acquired a better work ethic.
Joo played in 52 games this season for the Thunders, averaging 24 minutes and 25 seconds of playing time, 5.6 points and 3.5 assists per game. “Many wins from this season can be attributed to Joo’s effort,” says Lee. “He often nets crucial three pointers when we are in a corner.”
Although the Thunders lost the game from the Sakers’ buzzer-beater, the team secured its spot in the playoffs. For Joo, this year’s playoffs will be another opportunity to prove himself as a seasoned veteran.
Special Lunar New Year’s Day for the Phoebus Fans
Ulsan Mobis Phoebus fans got a surprise on Feb. 7, a day before the Lunar New Year’s Day, when they attended the Phoebus match against Changwon LG Sakers. As they entered the stadium, fans were greeted by cheerleaders dressed in hanbok and security guards in old magistrate uniforms from the Chosun Dynasty.
Phoebus fans also received sebaetdon (money in special envelopes that seniors give to younger people after the New Year’s greetings) embellished with the photos of Phoebus players and a special message.
Phoebus star guard Yang Dong-geun’s New Year’s greeting, for example, said “Let’s defend against any bad luck!” Yang’s envelope was the most popular among fans.
Phoebus also held special events such as calligraphy and traditional Korean rice cake making lessons. The calligraphers wrote down the fans’ New Year’s resolutions and wishes for a prosperous new year.
Holding the lead from early on, Phoebus won the match against the Sakers 69 to 58, breaking its two-game losing streak.