Weekly ReviewWith lots to gain, Egis and Orions begin KBL finals battle
After a tumultuous lead-up, the Korean Basketball League (KBL) finals have finally begun.
Not only was defending champion and powerhouse Ulsan Mobis Phoebus led by Yang Dong-geun, arguably the best guard in the league at the moment, disqualified after the semi-finals, but the finals series is being played by two teams that each have a lot on the line.
For the Jeonju KCC Egis, if they win the championship title, this will be their first trophy in five years. It would be even more dramatic for the Goyang Orion Orions, who could win their first trophy in 14 years.
The Egis was truly the underdog throughout this season, and came off a dramatic last year. Former coach Hur Jae, one of the most decorated players and coaches in KBL history, decided to step down from his post towards the end last season. It was Hur’s desperate attempt to take responsibility for the team’s poor performances in the past three seasons, as the once-great basketball franchise lingered in the bottom pool since 2012, and indeed finished last in the 2012-13 season.
After Hur’s disgraced resignation, it was Choo Seung-kyun who assumed the post as acting head coach in February 2015. Just three years after retiring as a player, Choo officially became the Egis’s head coach prior to this season. Eventually, Choo led the Egis to the first regular season first-place title in the franchise history and received Coach of the Year award.
The Orions, on the other hand, were expected by all to make an appearance in the KBL finals this year. They’ve made the playoffs for the past three years but were never able to get past the first round. The current coach, Choo Il-seung, took the head coaching job in 2011 and raised the team from a nearly four-year slump. Choo led the team to the playoffs in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
But this year, they might make it all the way. With forward Lee Seung-hyun and two foreign players dominating in the court paired with Choo’s leadership, the team has a real shot at their first KBL championship trophy since 2002.
The next game in the finals is scheduled for tomorrow at 7 p.m. in Goyang.
Player in focus: Joe Jackson (Goyang Orion Orions)
Goyang Orion Orions guard Joe Jackson’s dunk over Kim Jong-kyu of the Changwon LG Sakers, who is 26 centimeters (10 inches) taller than Jackson, on Nov. 21, is unarguably one of the highlights for pro basketball this season. Jackson’s gravity-defying dunks also have given him the title “King of the Dunk” this season.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, the 1.80 meters (5 foot 9) guard grew up playing basketball. During his career in high school, Jackson was named a McDonald’s High School All-American, a U.S. player designation system that picks top players around the country to play in a high school all-star game. Jackson went on to play for the University of Memphis but struggled at first due to the pace and the size of NCAA Division I basketball. However, Jackson quickly adapted to the college level and was named Conference USA Player of the Year in the Conference USA Men’s Basketball.
After his college career, Jackson went undrafted in the NBA and played for the Bakersfield Jam in the NBA Development League before joining the Orions in 2015. In the semi-finals game against the defending champion Ulsan Mobis Phoebus, Jackson had 15 points, with 5 rebounds and 6 assists in the first game; 25 points, with 5 rebounds and 6 assists in the second game; and 8 points, with 3 rebounds and 9 assists in the third game to lift the Egis.