Korea’s future may hinge on Lee Seung-Hyun

Lee Seung-Hyun could be Korea's future game-changer.
(image from FIBA)
*This first appeared on my weekly column on FIBA.com.

Korea had a forgettable 2015 in terms of Asian basketball, but their future looks bright with the emergence of Lee Seung-Hyun.

Lee is only 24 years old but he has already become a bona fide star in the Korean Basketball League (KBL), was among the national team's leaders at the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship and has already led his club team (Goyang Orions) in snapping a 14-year championship drought. Without a shadow of a doubt, he epitomizes the bright future that awaits Korean basketball.

Last month, Lee averaged 12.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 triples per game while also shooting 41.7 percent from beyond the arc in leading Goyang to the 2015-2016 KBL crown. For his efforts, he was adjudged the KBL Finals MVP award in only his second year of playing professional basketball.

He also did well for Korea at last year's continental championship in Changsha-Hunan, putting up 10.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per contest and hitting 38 percent of his three-point attempts. His best outing came against Qatar in the second round of the competition. In that contest, Lee struck hard with 19 points on 9 of 13 shooting while also hauling down 6 rebounds. Unfortunately, his marquee performance wasn't enough to carry the Koreans to the

They absorbed their second defeat after that result, which eventually led to their being Group F's fourth seed entering the knockout Quarter-Final, where they lost to powerhouse Iran. Korea, which was coached by Kim Dong-Kwang, finished in sixth place - only the second time in the team's history they were outside the top four.

For sure, Korea will remember their sixth-place finish as a wake-up call and use it as a rallying point to re-energize their national program. With the "old guard" like Kim Joo-Sung, Moon Tae-Jong, Kim Min-Soo and Ham Ji-Hoon all giving way to the younger generation, it's a foregone conclusion that Lee should figure prominently in the team's future iterations.

The numbers speak volumes about how good this young player is, and these belie the fact that he represents the kind of big man that Korea hasn’t really seen before. At 2.01m (6ft 7in), Lee has the size to play all three frontcourt positions for his club and for the national side. He has the handles of a wingman, and he is known as one of the sweetest-shooting frontcourt players in the KBL. Think of him as Korea's version of Andres Nocioni (Argentina), Ersan Ilyasova (Turkey) or even Ranidel De Ocampo (Philippines).

It is still unknown if Korea will be able to participate in the 2016 FIBA Asia Challenge taking place in Iran later this year, but if they do make it, Lee should be a shoo-in to make the team. Just imagine a frontline composed of Lee along with shot-blocking wizard Lee Jong-Hyun, the athletic Kim Jong-Kyu, behemoth 2.21m (7ft 3in) Ha Seung-Jin and veteran Oh Se-Keun! That line-up of bigs can definitely give teams like China, Iran, Japan and the Philippines a run for their money.

Among the other young bucks on whose shoulders Korea's fortunes will be placed are guys like Lee Jung-Hyun, Moon Seong-Gon, Choi Jun-Young and Kang Sang-Jae, and all those players have the potential to make Korea one of the most dominant teams in Asia once again!




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