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31/05/2019
Enzo Flojo's Asia On My Mind
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Will Korea make some noise at the World Cup?

MANILA (Enzo Flojo's Asia on My Mind) – The dearth of big names for Korea won't stop them 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, but that won't stop them from trying to spring some surprises.

The Koreans were drawn into Group B together with Russia, Argentina, Nigeria. The Koreans are ranked 32nd based on the latest FIBA World Rankings presented by Nike, making them 1 spot ahead of Nigeria. Argentina are the highest ranked team in that group at 5th followed by Russia at 10th.

Judging by those rankings, one cannot be faulted for thinking Korea have very little chance to advance past the group stage, but based on how they fared at the Asian Qualifiers, the Koreans should not be overlooked.

 

Despite lacking in size, Korea were able to put together an impressive 10-win, 2-loss slate thanks mainly to their shooting, playmaking and speed. Much of the credit, of course, goes to head coach Kim SamShik, who was able to maximize his squad's strengths.

Another huge factor was the inclusion of new naturalized player Ra GunA (also known as Ricardo Ratliffe). A long-time player in the Korean Basketball League (KBL), Ra plugged the Korean national team's biggest hole, which was right smack in the middle at the center spot. Ra worked in tandem with athletic frontliner Kim JongKyu to give Korea an ultra effective frontcourt that perfectly complemented their elite perimeter players.

Not surprisingly, both Ra and JongKyu have been called up by the Korean Basketball Association (KBA) for their preliminary national team pool together with other elite stars from the KBL like Oh SeKeun, Lee SeoungHyun, Lee JungHyun and Kim SunHyung.

 

At full strength and with intense preparation, this Korean team should be in a better position to put up a strong showing compared to the 2014 iteration of the squad that went winless in Spain. Korea went 0-5 in that edition of the FIBA World Cup, losing by an average of 21.6 points per game.

With this year's World Cup closer to home, though, Korea are hoping for stronger fan presence in their games, and with their retooled roster, they're aiming for more than just 1 win.

2 wins should be enough to get Korea to the second round, where they can potentially clinch an automatic spot at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Should they be successful, Korea will be playing at the quadrennial event for the first time since 1996.

 

Looking ahead, Korea should be on even terms against Nigeria, and on a good day, they can be a serious threat to both El Alma Argentina and the Russians.

Having said that, Korea will still have to beat considerable odds. Nothing short of their best will enable them to get their first World Cup win since 1994, much less advance past the group stage.

That means regular double-doubles from both Ra and JongKyu, and a three-point shooting display for the ages.

Much remains up in the air, of course, but it's promising that the KBA has lined up a rigorous string of preparation games for the national team, including seeing action at the 2019 William Jones Cup in Chinese Taipei and hosting a pocket tournament in the city of Incheon that includes Lithuania, Czech Republic and Angola.


Enzo Flojo

FIBA

FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.

FIBA takes no responsibility and gives no guarantees, warranties or representations, implied or otherwise, for the content or accuracy of the content and opinion expressed in the above article.

Enzo Flojo

Enzo Flojo

Enzo Flojo, one of Manila’s top basketball bloggers, always has Asian basketball on his mind. His biggest basketball dream? To see an Asian team as a legitimate gold medal contender in world basketball. He believes it will happen in his lifetime. If you have big basketball dreams like he does, then you’re in the right place.