Korean men’s and women’s basketball teams are working to restore their honor at the Asian Games. The men’s basketball team, led by coach Chu Il-seung, and the women’s basketball team, led by coach Jeong Seon-min, left the country on the 23rd and 24th to participate in the Hangzhou Asian Games.
Starting with the first match of Group D against Indonesia at 6:30 p.m. on the 26th, Seungho Chu will face Qatar on the 28th and Japan on the 30th. After completing the group stage, the quarterfinals tournament schedule awaits.
Starting with the first match of Group C against Thailand on the 27th, Jeong Seon-min will meet Thailand on the 27th, North Korea on the 29th, and Taiwan on the 1st of next month. South Korea, which had played as a single team with North Korea in the previous Asian Games in Palembang, Jakarta, faced them again as the opposing team in this tournament.
The Korean men’s and women’s basketball teams are facing rumors of a crisis as they have not been able to produce remarkable results in international competitions following the recent decline in basketball’s popularity in Korea. The men’s national team lost to New Zealand in the Asia Cup held last summer and was eliminated in the quarterfinals. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and diplomatic issues, participation in the FIBA Basketball World Cup and the Paris Olympics were canceled due to the absence of participation in international competition preliminaries.
The women’s national team also ranked 5th in the 2023 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asia Cup, which ended in July. They did not even qualify for the final qualifying round of the Olympic Games, and their participation in the next Olympics was cancelled. In particular, it was the first time since Korea was founded in 1965 that Korea did not advance to the semifinals of the Asia Cup.
Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams are desperate to perform well at the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games. After the Asian Games, there are no international competitions for the national team to participate in for the time being. Among male athletes, those who have not yet completed their military service also face the issue of military service benefits. Above all, there are even concerns that if even this Asian Games fails to show significant results, a great dark era could arrive for Korean basketball as a whole.
Korean basketball has continued to be strong in the Asian Games. At the 2014 Games held in Incheon, both men and women won gold medals together. At the 2018 Jakarta Palembang Games, the women maintained their pride by winning a silver medal and the men a bronze medal.
The good news for Chu Il Seung-ho is that it has become difficult for Asian powerhouses, who could be his competitors, to show up at their best in the Asian Games. As the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Cup was held just before the Asian Games, the teams that represented Asia with elite members were assessed to have weakened their power by excluding injured players or forming a squad that was close to the second base.
Japan, which won three wins at the World Cup and qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics, changed its squad at the Asian Games and gave its key players a break. Lebanon, a powerhouse in the Middle East, announced that it would not participate in this tournament, and Iran’s Hamed Haddadi, the infamous Korean killer, retired. The host country, China, which was considered the most threatening opponent, also lost its starting center Zhou Qi due to an injury sustained in the World Cup, weakening its power.
But the unfortunate thing is that Korea is also not at its best. Ahead of this tournament, key players including Seung-ho Choo, Se-geun Oh, Seong-gon Moon, Jun-seok Yeo, and Kyo-chang Song were absent for various reasons. In particular, it is painful that Coach Chu’s trademark ‘forward basketball’ was canceled as the tall forward players who were the core of Choo Il-seung’s basketball failed one after another due to injuries.
For Korea, which already lacks tall big men, height disadvantage and even a handicap in defensive matchups are concerns. The roles of naturalized player La Geon-ah, who hinted at retiring from the national team after this tournament, and Kim Seon-hyung, Heo Hoon, and Byun Jun-hyung, who will lead the guard team, have become more important.
The preparation process for the Asian Games was not that smooth. The Olympic pre-qualification event held in Syria, a travel-banned country, was ultimately canceled, giving away a valuable opportunity for the players to work together and check their strength in the actual game. As criticism over the national team’s poor management increased, the Korea Basketball Association urgently planned a training camp in Japan following evaluation matches with domestic professional and amateur teams, but it is unclear how much it actually helped strengthen the national team’s strength. There is concern in the basketball world about the poor support for the national team.
The women’s basketball team’s attention is focused on Park Ji-soo’s condition. The over-reliance on Park Ji-su, the team’s ace and the only player over 190 cm tall, is considered a chronic problem for the women’s national team.
Park Ji-su had to go on a hiatus for a while due to panic disorder, and at the end of last season, he suffered a finger ligament injury in a professional team game and had to go to the operating table. The teams playing against Korea are under such intense control that it is said, ‘If we just stop Park Ji-soo, we will win,’ so physical and mental management are essential. Even though Park Ji-soo is an irreplaceable resource for the national team, he cannot be allowed to play close to the full time in every game.안전놀이터
Coach Jeong Seon-min is a representative legend of Korean women’s basketball, but her performance as the national team’s head coach falls far short of expectations. We need to break away from the limitations of overworking Park Ji-soo and relying only on archery and basketball. If the team performs poorly in the Asian Games following the poor performances at the Basketball World Cup and Asia Cup, it is virtually difficult to continue the Jeong Seon-min regime.
Volleyball’s ‘Hangzhou disaster’ can be a warning to the men’s and women’s national basketball teams. Men’s and women’s volleyball, which is called a synonym for winter sports along with basketball, has been continuously falling in recent international competitions. Men’s volleyball suffered the humiliation of being eliminated early before the opening ceremony of the tournament after being defeated by India and Pakistan in the group stage.
The women’s volleyball team, which made it to the semifinals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, recently lost 27 consecutive games in the Volleyball Nations League and was helplessly eliminated from the Paris Olympics preliminaries with all 7 losses, making the outlook for the Hangzhou Asian Games very dark. In a country that operates a prestigious professional league, the men’s and women’s volleyball teams were relegated to third-rate status even on the Asian stage, which was a huge disappointment to fans.
Men’s and women’s basketball are also aiming for gold at the Asian Games, but there is a need to be aware that they may suffer the same disaster as volleyball if they are not careful. Will the Asian Games be an opportunity to revive Korean basketball, which is on the brink? Or will this be the beginning of a bigger crisis?