July 18, 2019
These days, the Korean invasion is in full force. Whether it’s on TV with the Korean drama or with food with all the samgyupsal establishments sprouting like mushrooms. “Pati ba naman basketball?”
Filipinos take pride in being the biggest basketball fans in the world. The fervent wish is for the fandom to translate into global excellence. We’re getting there, don’t worry. We have a ticket to the World Cup, and our U-19 team beat China, making us the best Asian team in that age group’s competition.
Watching the Korean team take on the import-laden Mighty Sports in the World Cup, it would be helpful to admit that we can learn something from their approach. After all, we stop improving when we think we know everything — and I think we’re unanimous that we’re not content with just making it to the World Cup and coming home winless.
As a columnist, I get to become a GM, Commissioner and Coach from my almighty armchair. Some pedestrian observations watching the two best teams in the Jones Cup take on each other are offered below.
Establishing an identity
The Korean national team has established their own brand of basketball that has led them to a measure of consistent success. The fundamentals of the team that broke our hearts in the Asian Games of 2002 are still the same foundation of their current team.
Personally working with Koreans, I have had a glimpse of their determination and work ethic. They persevere to learn and find the system that works for them. It is very evident in their basketball team.
Their system is not foolproof and it has also evolved. We have overtaken them for the meantime, but that does not mean we shouldn’t learn from them anymore.
The Koreans have always had good three-point shooting. They were the Splash Nation even before there were the Splash brothers. They relied on what they can develop—shooting and passing. They could not rely on size and raw athleticism because they did not have that.
Do we already have a lockdown shooter — one that’s money when they set him open? Marcio Lassiter, Matthew Wright and Roger Pogoy are good shooters, but they could not defy defenses at this point. In the Korea vs. Mighty Sports game, Coach Charles Tiu gave marching orders in the last two minutes to allow the two, but guard the three.
The tall, athletic players complied, but the Koreans still managed two off-balanced three point shots that were not set-up. They were desperation shots to us, but the Koreans were confident when they took them, just like Steph or Klay.
In our home window game against Kazakhstan, we were the more talented team, but we lost simply because we missed too many shots.
The Koreans employ a zone defense and the only antidote for that is outside shooting. We become vulnerable when opponents use the zone on us.
An import should supply what we don’t have
Andray Blatche does everything, and that’s because we ask him for everything. Ricardo Ratliffe for the Koreans plays within his limits. He offers inside presence and rim protection. He is seamlessly integrated into what the Koreans do, with the screens and passing. They rarely ask Ratliffe to switch since they have the zone and their other defenders are capable of covering the outside.
The Koreans are not much taller than we are. Factoring the Fil-foreigners, our player pool is already taller and more athletic than they are. But we must also accept out limitations. JuneMar Fajardo, despite his local dominance, can only provide quality minutes in national competition. Japeth Aguilar is busy developing a perimeter game and chasing guards on the switch.
Blatche is 32 years old and we should be looking for his replacement. The suggestions are Terrence Jones and Justin Brownlee, on the notion that we already have tall players, but how much can we ask from them in the international game? We still need a young, reliable rim protector who can supply the rebounds.
We all want the best for our national team, and positive suggestions should always be explored.
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