Well-rounded, efficient Yang Donggeun was one of Korea's best
BANGKOK (Thailand) - Korea are one of the most prominent teams to ever play in the FIBA Asia Cup with 25 medals in 29 appearances. Multiple stars have worn the proud Korea national team jersey. One of the best in this modern era is Yang Donggeun.
The floor general was already a superstar in Korea by the time he made hisFIBA Asia Cup debut in 2007. He was the first overall pick in the Korea Basketball League (KBL) Draft 2004 and later won the Best Newcomer award in 2005. By his second season, he was the Regular Season MVP.
Everything fell into place in 2007 when he won another Regular Season MVP, his first Playoff MVP, and his first KBL title with his only team throughout his career, Ulsan Mobis Phoebus.
Of course, it was also the year where he first made his senior national team debut at the FIBA Asia Cup.
Korea had been undefeated in their first four games of Asia Cup 2007, and Yang was playing well. However, it wasn't until a crucial game against Japan that Yang started radiating his star potential with Korea.
Even though Japan were coming off a loss to Kazakhstan, they were the hosts and had also beat eventual silver medalists Lebanon in the Group Phase. JR Sakuragi was doing well in his Asia Cup debut. Sakuragi ended up with 17 points and 17 rebounds in the game against Korea.
Yang had an even better game as the 25-year-old scored 29 points on 11-14 shooting from the field. The point total was Yang's highest ever over his 40 games playing in 5 Asia Cups.
It was enough to propel Korea to a 93-83 win over the hosts. After a tough loss to Lebanon in the Semi-Finals, Yang won his first Asia Cup bronze medal with Korea in a win over Kazakhstan.
Rivalry and Revenge with China
The fact that China and Korea are rivals is no secret. They have faced each other 5 times in an Asia Cup championship game, most between any two teams in the history of the tournament.
Yang's first taste of the rivalry in the Asia Cup was in 2011 Semi-Finals. He did well with 17 points on 7-11 shooting from the field, but it resulted in yet another Asia Cup loss for Korea to their rivals, their 4th straight since 1997.
Revenge was set on the table for Yang and Korea immediately in the very first game of Asia Cup 2013. They were drawn into a heavyweight group with China and Iran and faced their long-time rivals in the opening match.
Though he made only one three-pointer, Yang was a perfect 8-8 from the line to finish with 11 points. Korea edged out China 63-59, with Yang dropping a crucial pass to an and-one bucket in the last two minutes of the game.
Korea ended up winning the bronze in both 2011 and 2013.
Like Fine Wine
Yang Donggeun had turned 34 just over a week before Asia Cup 2015 and was the second oldest player on Korea's roster that year. It didn't slow him from turning in what might have been his best personal Asia Cup run.
In the first game of the tournament against Jordan, Yang teased fans with a near triple-double of 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 9 assists while also knocking down 5 three-pointers - the most he's ever made in Asia Cup play. He had another big-time performance in the following game against China with a double-double of 24 points and 10 rebounds, but Korea took in a narrow loss.
Yang saved his best game ever going up against Lebanon, another fierce foe who Korea had plenty of exciting duels with over the years. He scored 18 points to go with 6 rebounds, 8 assists, and 8 steals to lead Korea to a win over the Cedars.
Those eight steals set the record for most in a game since 2007, which came as no surprise to Korean basketball fans. Yang was in the peak of his defensive prime at the moment, having won two Defensive Player of the Year awards in the KBL in 2013 and 2015.
One of the Best
Three Asia Cup Bronze medals in five appearances. 354 points scored in 40 games. One of the most efficient scoring guards, shooting 60.8 percent from the two-point range and 82.3 percent from the free-throw line.
|Yang Donggeun in Asia Cup|
|Asia Cup Appearances||5|
|Minutes Per Game||24.5|
|Points Per Game||8.9|
|Rebounds Per Game||3.1|
|Assists Per Game||3.7|
Yang Donggeun was really "one of the best" for Korea in the FIBA Asia Cup.