Currently playing superb basketball in the United States, but somehow not getting the nationwide publicity its skills deserve, is the unbeaten Korean national womenhs basketball team.
If you have ever wondered what happened to the two-handed set shot, it is this Korean team's major offensive weapon. In fact it is used so skillfully that the players, as a team, regularly shoot 55 percent.
Although there is probably a tendency most places to think of Koreans as small or compact people, this is a relatively big team, especially by women's standards.
Center Chan Suk Park is 6 ft. 4 in. tall, has good foot speed, and averages 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. Park can honestly be described as a leaper.Her head, on rebounds, is often up close to the rim.
The forwards are all around 5-11, and the guards, who are whippet quick, go 5 -6 or maybe 5-7. This is a team that stops running only to shoot; has its hands either up or out constantly on defense; has every fundamental of the game committed to memory; and builds defensive walls with a simple 2-3 zone.It averages 90 points per 40-minute game and plays under international rules.
What makes it different from most US women's teams is that it has no structured inside game. But it is outstanding at regaining its own missed shots and then turning them into easy layups.
In essence this is a women's all-star squad selected mostly from 11 Korean company teams that regularly play 40 games a year. Team members range in age from 18 to 25 (two girls are still in high school). They are coached by a man named Ga III Jin, who uses double sessions in order to practice four hours a day.
The team was financed and sent to the United States primarily as a goodwill ambassador by the Korean Amateur Basketball Association, which has its headquarters in Seoul. The Koreans have already beaten US women's teams from UCLA, Pepperdine, Cal State LA, Colorado, Cal Poly, and the Air Force ACademy.
Although Jin says high school baseball is considered the No. 1 national sport in Korea, company-sponsored women's basketball teams play regularly to crowds of 4,000. Admission is $1.60 for adults and half that for youngsters.
Of the 11 best known women's basketball teams in Korea, only one has a female coach, and she is an assistant. Most players on Jin's team are probably going to represent Korea in the upcoming Bulgarian Games and eventually the Olympics.
The Korean's blue uniforms are beautifully tailored and so modest that the sleeves on their game jerseys come all the way down to their wrists. Although they hav eobviously been taught to talk a lot on defense, emotion is not part of their game plan. Even Shields and Yarnell would have trouble holding the same facial expression for as long as these players.
Except for an occasional hand signal from Jin, almost no coaching is done from the bench or duing timeouts. It is also a surprise to American spectators, used to having teams return to their locker rooms at halftime, to watch the Koreans remain on the floor and practice shooting.
Jin's players are extremely talented at playing together. They are also very aware of the importance of defense, throw the outlet pass with confidence, and move the ball well.
Trying to interview Coach Ga III Jin at Pauley Pavilion through an interpreter (Dong Woong Lee o the Seoul Daily News) was an exercise in futility.
We both struck out -- smiling!