Craig Rayner takes a look at the Australian Boomers’ Group D opponents in the lead up to the 2014 FIBA World Cup for men. After their opening round against Slovenia, the Boomers next opponent is Korea less than 24 hours later.
After the Boomers open their 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup campaign in what promises to be a testing encounter against Slovenia, they will follow up the next day in what could already be deemed a must-win match against Korea. As all Group D teams will be aiming to avoid finishing fourth in the group which would mean a probable matchup against Team USA in the next round, the games against the group’s lesser ranked opponents simply must be taken advantage of with 31st ranked Korea falling into this category.
Having last competed on the world stage back in 1998 with a 16th placed finish at the World Championships in Greece, Korea has continually fallen just short since in qualifying tournaments until last year where they finished third at the Asian Championships held in the Philippines and booked their ticket to this year’s World Cup in Spain. Korea have named a squad that retains the core of the unit from last year but interestingly do not have anyone over 6’9″ (2.08m) on their list, as has been the case for the last two years. It was thought 2.21m Centre Ha Seung-Jin, a former member of the Portland Trailblazers from 2004-06 and Korea’s only player to have played in the NBA, would be a late addition to the squad but this has not eventuated.
Up until recently Korea have also been toying with the direction to take in regards to including a naturalised player in their squad and have now announced that American-born Moon Tae-Jong (born Jarod Stevenson) would return to the squad after leading Korea in scoring at the 2011 Asian Championships. A star with local Korean side Changwon LG Sakers, Tae-Jong was named the 2013-14 Most Valuable Player of the Korean Basketball League and has previously enjoyed a lengthy career in Europe.
An unfortunate omission from the squad is Jeonju KCC’s Kim Min-Goo who was recently in a car accident and is yet to fully recover to take the court as he battles hand and hip injuries. 23-year-old Min-Goo is considered one of Korea’s rising stars and was named in last year’s FIBA Asia Championships All-Star team having led Korea in scoring. Min-Goo starred in the last two matches of the tournament pouring in a 27 point effort against the Philippines in the semi-finals and 21 points in their victorious third place match against Chinese Taipei. Coach Yoo Jae-Hak issued a statement last month in relation to Min-Goo’s condition.
“We are praying for his recovery and well-being. He is excused from all practice until we get a medical confirmation that he can resume training.”
With Korea’s distinct lack of size, predictably the Boomers can expect an uptempo Korean team that relies heavily on their outside shooting. This was evident in last year’s Asian Championships where 54% of their field goal attempts were from 3-point territory.
Australia has only met Korea a handful of times in international competition, most recently in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta where Australia opened their campaign against the Korean’s with a 111-88 victory. Prior to this Australia have also enjoyed victories against them in the 1994 World Championships in Canada and at the 1988 Olympics on the Korean’s home soil.
The Boomers will shortly be able to gauge where the current Korean campaign for the World Cup is at, with their Asian World Cup opponents scheduled to play friendly games across the Tasman in New Zealand against the Tall Blacks on July 15 (Wellington), 17 (Tauranga) and 19 (Auckland). The Tall Blacks will then return the favour and play two matches in Korea on July 29 and 31.
Korea recently completed a series of friendly matches against BYU-Hawaii, where they won the series 2-1 and split a two-game series against Japan.
Australia opens the 2014 FIBA World Cup with a game against Slovenia in Gran Canaria, Spain on August 31 at 1:30am AEST live on ABC2 or online on FIBA’s livebasketball.tv.
Preview of Australia’s Group D Opponents (in order)
Slovenia (Preview) – 31 August 2014, 1:30am AEST
Korea – 31 August 2014, 11:30pm AEST
Lithuania (Preview) – 3 September 2014, 1:30am AEST
Mexico (Preview) – 3 September 2014, 11:30pm AEST
Angola (Preview) – 4 September 2014, 11:30pm AEST