The Korean National Basketball Team has announced its 16-man roster for the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games. On May 26, the Korea Basketball Association (KBA) announced the 16-man roster and 24 reserves for the Hangzhou Asian Games after discussions with the Performance Improvement Committee.
This is the first time the national team has convened since the 2022 FIBA Asia Cup in July last year. The team has a hectic schedule ahead, starting with the Korea-Japan Basketball Trial in July, the FIBA Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament in August and the Hangzhou Asian Games in September. Led by head coaches Choo Il-seung and Lee Hoon-jae, the squad features a wide range of selections, from the most experienced player, Oh Se-geun (SK), to the youngest, Moon Jung-hyun (Korea University), spanning the professional and amateur ranks, domestic and international players, and new and old generations.
Most notable is the return of veterans Oh Se-geun and Kim Sun-hyung to the Taegeuk Mark. Both players are alumni of the ‘Chung-Ang University 52-game winning streak’ myth and are now superstars representing professional basketball. The two players, who had one of the most epic matchups of all time as opposing aces in the 2023 KBL Championship Finals, made headlines when Osegun, who became a free agent after the season ended with KGC as the overall champions, made a surprise move to SK with Kim Sun-hyung.
Oh and Kim were also regulars on the national team. They were part of the winning team at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, the last time Korean basketball reached the top of the international stage. Only three players from that squad are still on the national team today – Oh Se-geun, Kim Sun-hyung, and Kim Jong-kyu (Wonju DB).
It’s not uncommon for domestic players to get smaller when they go to international competitions. However, the duo of Oh Se-geun and Kim Sun-hyung have been one of the few players who have always been able to hold their own on the international stage. They are now in their mid-30s, but their skills are not rusty at all. Kim Sun-hyung won his second regular season MVP in 10 years this year, while Oh Se-geun won his third Final MVP, tied for the most in history. That’s why national team coach Chu Il-seung, who has emphasized generational change, brought the two veterans back to the national team.
The two players had been away from the national team for a while as they entered their 2020s. They had been away from the national team for a while as they entered their 20s, with nagging injuries and physical limitations, and the team was in need of a generational change. However, at the 2022 FIBA Asia Cup, the national team realized how much they needed the two players. Chu Il-seung-ho showed promise with his unique ‘forward basketball’ style, but in the quarterfinals against New Zealand, the absence of a seasoned leader and fixer was painful as the team collapsed due to injuries and mental battles.
Since winning the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, Korea Basketball has struggled on the international stage. At the 2018 Asian Games in Palembang, Jakarta, they finished third and were plagued by selection noise. Heo Jae, Kim Sang-sik, and Cho Sang-hyun, the previous coaches of the national team, all resigned amid controversy after failing to fulfill their terms. In February last year, the team was disqualified from the Asian qualifiers for the Basketball World Cup due to a spate of COVID-19 cases in the squad, forcing the national team to take a year off from international competition after the Asia Cup.
The most important event of the year is the Asian Games. Originally scheduled for 2022 but postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 situation in host China, the Hangzhou Asian Games in September this year will be a chance for Korea Basketball to redeem itself.
Since the 2000s, South Korea has only reached the podium at home in Busan in 2002 and Incheon in 2014, but has struggled on the road. The last time 안전놀이터 Korea Basketball won an away title on the Asian stage was in 1997 at the FIA Asia Cup in Saudi Arabia (then known as the Asian Basketball Championship), 26 years ago. If we limit ourselves to the Asian Games, it’s been 41 years since they won gold in New Delhi in 1982.
Given their age, there is a good chance that the Hangzhou Asian Games will be their de facto “last dance” under the Korean flag. Current ace and naturalized Korean athlete Ra Gun-ah has already hinted at retiring from the national team after the Hangzhou Games. With the best roster since 2014, this tournament is a golden opportunity for Korea Basketball to overcome the away jinx and go for the title.
The key will be the health of Oh and Kim. Both are seniors, and the overtime game seven of last season’s championship game took a toll on their bodies. They don’t need to prove themselves anymore, so barring injury, they should be in the final roster. They are likely to be utilized as jokers to come in at key moments rather than full-time starters as they slowly build up their fitness with a focus on the Asian Games.
On the other hand, the introduction of new faces and the harmonization with the ‘Chuil Seung-pyo forward basketball’ is also noteworthy. Along with the familiar faces of Oh Se-geun, Kim Sun-hyung, Ragan-ah, Heo Hoon, and Kim Jong-kyu, Park Ji-hoon of Anyang KGC Ginseng Corporation and Yang Jae-min, who plays for Utsunomiya in Japan’s B League, were included in the national team’s training roster for the first time. Korea University standout Moon Jung-hyun is the only collegiate player to be named to the 16-man roster for the first time since 2022. Choo will focus on maximizing the competitiveness of the young players in the upcoming trials in July.
Chu made his international debut at the Asia Cup, where he impressed with his tactical use of long forwards. While the team’s performance at the Asia Cup was far from perfect due to the short amount of time they had to work together, it was significant in that it showed the potential of a new style of basketball, moving away from the small lineup and three-point-oriented archery of the traditional Korean style. With the exception of a few irreplaceable players per position, this team is characterized by a large number of swingman-type players with size and athleticism, including Song Kyo-chang, Lee Woo-seok, Moon Jung-hyun, Yang Jae-min, and Lee Dae-heon.
However, there is a concern that some important resources will not be able to join the national team. Lee Hyun-jung and Yeo Jun-seok, who are considered the future of Korean basketball, and Choi Joon-yong, a point forward who recently signed a free agent contract with KCC and hinted at a possible overseas challenge.