This article has been added/adapted from an article published in the June 2023 issue of <Rookie>.
KGC’s off-season was full of concerns.메이저사이트 Coach Kim Seung-gi, who led the team for a long time, left, and Jeon Seong-hyun, who became one of the best shooters in the league, also chose to transfer. Facing the season with such a power vacuum, KGC washed away concerns with the leadership of coach Kim Sang-sik and enjoyed the joy of winning the regular league wire-to-wire. In addition, the championship match with SK in a return match was a drama. KGC got its 4th championship trophy by beating SK after a close match in Game 7.
In the uneasy off-season,
KGC achieved the best results by ascending to the championship match in the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 seasons. In the 2020-2021 season, KBL wrote a new history with the best foreign player named Jared Sullinger. All 10 playoff victories. He achieved the so-called ‘Perfect 10’ and won a perfect victory. Even in the championship game against KCC, which ranked first in the regular league, KGC showed off an overwhelming difference without giving up a single game.
The 2021-2022 season that followed. KGC succeeded in advancing to the championship match this time as well. This time, KGC’s opponent for the championship match was SK. Since KGC showed an advantage with 5 wins and 1 loss in the regular league, attention was high on whether or not to achieve 2 consecutive losses. However, KGC was unable to overcome the Omari Spellman variable, which was not in my condition due to injury, and handed over the championship trophy to SK.
The 2022-2023 season, which was greeted with great pride. In fact, ahead of the season, KGC was full of bad news. First of all, the biggest issue is the departure of Jeon Seong-hyun, who was growing into an all-time great 3-point shooter. Jeon Seong-hyun, who became a free agent, took on a new challenge by signing a contract with Day One, which was founded by acquiring Orion, instead of choosing to renew the contract with KGC.
KGC recruited Byung-Jun Bae, Chul-Wook Kim, and Joon-Won Jeong from the free agent market. However, it was unreasonable to replace the presence of Jeon Seong-hyun, who recorded an average of 3.3 3-pointers per game in the previous season and 15.4 points. In addition, KGC was already unable to maintain its existing power as Lee Jae-do moved to LG after winning the Perfect Ten. Due to Lee Jae-do’s successive departures from Jeon Seong-hyeon, it seemed obvious that KGC’s power would drop even further.
Not only this. The command tower has also changed. As manager Kim Seung-gi, who had led the team for a long time, moved to Day One, the manager position became vacant. This position was replaced by KGC manager Kim Sang-shik. It was coach Kim Sang-sik who returned to the professional stage after 8 years since Samsung’s acting manager in the 2013-2014 season. At the time, there were doubts about whether director Kim Sang-shik could replace director Kim Seung-gi’s vacancy.
As such, KGC’s off-season ended with many concerns. Unfortunately, compared to the previous season, which ended in runner-up, KGC was evaluated as inferior rather than upgraded. Of course, even before the start of the season, it did not receive much attention. At the Media Day held before the opening, most people mentioned KT and SK as candidates for the championship. KGC, who had reached the championship match for two consecutive years, started the season in such a thorough disregard.
Washing away concerns
KGC’s first game of the season was on October 15th, against SK, which they faced in the previous season’s championship match. In this game, KGC announced a pleasant start by winning 88-75.
After that, KGC’s sprint continued. They beat Carrot (now Day One), Hyundai Mobis, and Samsung in a row, winning four consecutive victories in the opening season. KGC, who recorded a whopping 8 wins and 2 losses in the first round of 10 matches, recorded an 80% win rate in the first round and rose to the top of the league.
The flame of KGC, once burnt, never faded. Even in the second round, they kept their lead with a record of 7 wins and 2 losses. The voice that regarded KGC’s rise as ‘shiny in the beginning’ gradually lost its power as KGC continued to run.
It is not that there was no crisis. In the first match of the third round, they lost to Korea Gas Corporation 95-100. Since then, KGC, whose momentum has been somewhat weakened, faced a crisis as it was sluggish with 1 win and 4 losses in the first 5 games of the 3rd round. However, it was KGC that overcame the crisis by running 4 consecutive victories again.
KGC’s second crisis came after the 6th round started. He returned after winning the East Asian Super League (EASL), but physical fitness issues held back KGC. Since the start of the 6th round, KGC has suffered three consecutive defeats, losing to Samsung, SK, and LG.
During this period, as LG pursued fiercely, a red light came on for KGC’s wire-to-wire regular league championship. However, KGC eventually kept its No. 1 spot. In the 6th round, it was only 3 wins and 5 losses, but it was a reasonable number to keep the number of wins earned until the 5th round.
As a result, KGC rose to first place in the regular league with a record of 37 wins and 17 losses. Since the opening of the season, he has never lost first place and won the 3rd regular league wire-to-wire championship. The only teams that achieved this record prior to KGC were Dongbu (now DB) in the 2011-2012 season and Hyundai Mobis in the 2018-2019 season. In that way, KGC had a perfect season, erasing their concerns.
* Teams that won the regular league wire-to-wire championship *
2011-2012 East: 44-10
2018-2019 Hyundai Mobis: 43-11
2022-2023 KGC: 37-17
KGC, which took first place in the drama-like playoff
regular league, got a direct ticket to the semifinals. The start was different from the last two seasons, where we had to start from the 6th round.
KGC’s opponent in the quarterfinals was Carrot, who defeated Hyundai Mobis in the semifinals despite the bad news of Seonghyun Jeon’s injury. It is a series that received a lot of attention due to a match with coach Kim Seung-gi, who showed uncomfortable planting toward KGC several times during the regular season.
Carrot, who had a bloody battle with Hyundai Mobis, was already exhausted. In response, coach Kim Seung-gi made a bold decision to virtually abandon the first game. As a result, the first game ended with a complete victory for KGC. 99-43, a whopping 56-point victory.
It was a new record for the most points in the playoffs and regular leagues. The previous playoff record was a game in which ET Land (now Korea Gas Corporation) won 45 points against KCC, 112-67, in the 4th game of the 2020-2021 season quarterfinal playoff, and the regular league record was in December 2014, when ET Land won Samsung It was a 54-point victory (100-46) against Also, Carrot’s 43 points that day was the lowest score ever in the playoffs.
It was a series that seemed to end easily just by looking at the first game, but Carrot counterattacked in the second game. KGC, unable to stop Lee Jung-hyun, who exploded with 32 points in the second game, lost 75-89 and allowed a counterattack.
KGC, who suffered an unexpected blow in the second game, recovered the atmosphere afterward. KGC, who took the third game 76-72 and took the lead again, won the fourth game 89-61, confirming their advance to the championship match for the third year in a row.
The championship match that followed was a drama. KGC’s opponent was SK, who won a ticket to the championship match by defeating LG. The matchup between the two teams for the second year in a row in the championship match was completed.
Ahead of the series, most forecasts pointed to KGC’s dominance. SK was unable to make the playoffs with all their strength due to Junyong Choi’s injury, and KGC was also ahead in terms of physical strength compared to SK, which had improved from the 6th round. Head coach Jeon Hee-chul, who was the enemy before the first game, also acknowledged his inferiority, saying, “It seems that we are inferior at a rate of 5.5 to 4.5. We will admit our inferiority and try to turn things around.”
1st match at home. KGC lost 69-77. SK’s biggest weapons, Jamil Warney (23 points) and Kim Seon-hyung (22 points), failed to control. It made KGC difficult as the two floaters were sucked into the rim of the throwing foot. In addition, Lens Abando, who performed the best with an average of 20.4 points against SK in the regular league, showed a disappointing appearance as he only scored 4 points in the first game.
After the first game, coach Kim Sang-sik said, “The two-man game defense against Kim Seon-hyeong and Warney was not adequate. When checking Kim Seon-hyung’s dropback, there was a part that was given to Warney. I will prepare again and play a good game.” Conversely, coach Jeon Hee-cheol expressed satisfaction, saying, “The players performed well for more than 90% of the prepared parts.”
The probability of winning the team that won the first round of the championship match is 72%. In 18 out of 25 rounds, the team that won Game 1 won the championship trophy. Now, KGC is in a position to challenge the 28% probability.
Ahead of the second game, KGC started to change. The series flow changed with the choice of attaching Moon Seong-gon as the main defender to Kim Seon-hyung. In the second game due to KGC’s defensive change, SK suffered completely as Seonhyung Kim scored 10 points and Warney only scored 9 points.
KGC, who took the second game 81-67, took the advantage by bringing it to 81-70 until the third game held on the road. Looking at past statistics, KGC’s winning probability, which was only 28% after the first game, increased to 41.7% after the second game and 66.7% after the third game.
After Game 3, coach Jeon Hee-cheol said, “To be honest, I don’t think there’s anything that can be changed. There’s nothing more to squeeze. I’ll have to think again, but I think I have no choice but to trust the players and go.” However, it was not SK that would just suffer like this.
In Game 4, SK changed the starting lineup. Excluding Kim Seon-hyeong, Warney, and Heo Il-young from the selection, he paid attention to physical strength. Also, on defense, he brought out a 3-2 drop zone, causing confusion in KGC’s offense. SK’s newly drawn card was properly hit, and KGC allowed the series to start by giving the 4th game 91-100. In the 5th game that followed, Oh Jae-hyun made three 3-point shots, and SK, which performed a surprise performance, took the victory, and the series flow changed again.
Driven to the edge of a cliff, KGC returned home and faced Game 6. The match continued until the first half, but SK, who widened the gap in the third quarter, ran away with a 15-point gap, driving KGC to the edge of the cliff.
At that moment, SK made a ‘choice’. The stamina of key players has already reached its limit. Coach Jeon Hee-chul called them to the bench in preparation for the 4th quarter and put in bench members to hold on.
An empty gap left by the opponent for a while. KGC did not miss this gap. KGC, who followed the 4 points and finished the 3rd quarter with an 11-point lead, chased in an instant as the 4th quarter started. Embarrassed, SK only added 2 points in the first 5 minutes of the 4th quarter, and the flow completely passed to KGC.
The choice to put Daryl Monroe in at the moment of crisis also became a ‘God’s move’. It was KGC that could hardly attack SK’s zone defense, but as soon as Monroe entered the court, he properly pierced the clogged blood. Monroe played only 17 minutes and 32 seconds in the 6th game, but succeeded in all 6 field goals and scored 16 points, showing off the best presence.
The match between the two teams, which exchanged the General and Meng-gun, eventually headed for the final 7th game. It was the 7th round of the championship match, which took place 14 years after the 2008-2009 season. The last Game 7 started with both teams no longer behind. The two teams, who fought fiercely throughout the fourth quarter, could not decide the outcome, and the final game 7 went to overtime.
After an all-time great game that went all the way to the end, KGC took Game 7 with a score of 100-97. As soon as the final buzzer sounded in the match that will go down in history, all KGC players rushed out onto the court and embraced each other, shedding tears of joy.
The championship game between the two teams, which was worthy of the title of ‘the best ever’, was also a box office success. From the 2nd game to the 7th game, 6 games were sold out in a row. A new record for the attendance of each game was updated, and in the last game 7, a whopping 5,905 spectators visited the gym.
The total number of spectators for the championship match was 37,059. In addition, a total of 87,731 spectators entered this playoff, showing a 55% increase compared to the previous season. In addition, a total of 599,572 spectators entered the regular league this season, a 114% increase compared to last season.
KGC set the slogan for this playoff as above. And this was the slogan for Yang Hee-jong, who announced his retirement after the season. In addition, Yang Hee-jong’s number 11 uniform, whose number was permanently canceled, was hung on one side of the Anyang Gymnasium.
After joining Anyang KT&G, the predecessor of the team, in 2007, Yang Hee-jong, who played only in the KGC uniform for 17 years, deserved this kind of treatment. He played an active role as the best defender in the league, and left a big impact in important games by putting decisive shots in the game.
For 17 years, Yang Hee-jong played in a total of 618 games in the regular league. He averaged 24 minutes and 3 seconds per game, averaging 6.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists. His records were not flashy, but Yang Hui-jong’s footprints were more splendid than anyone else’s.
In fact, he barely stood on the court in this championship match. It is Yang Hee-jong who played only 3 minutes and 14 seconds on average in 4 games. After the 5th game, he injured his shoulder and was in such a physical condition that he could not step on the court at all.
However, Yang Hee-jong still kept the bench. It was a decision made by coach Kim Sang-shik because just Yang Hee-jong sitting on the bench was a great source of strength for KGC. And Yang Hee-jong transformed from the bench to a mental coach and comforted the players.
Game 7 was the last game after a huge come-from-behind victory in Game 6. It was the last game of the 2022-2023 season and the last game of Yang Hee-jong’s career. The players on the court burned everything in a close match that extended to overtime, and Yang Hee-jong, who watched this from the bench, also heated up.
3.4 seconds before the end of Game 7. KGC’s 3-point lead. Victory was still not completely confirmed, but coach Kim Sang-shik made a bold decision. By replacing Hee-jong Yang, he was considerate so that he could face the last moment of his career on the court. Yang Hee-jong, who stood on the court thanks to coach Kim Sang-sik’s consideration, shed tears when the final buzzer sounded and KGC’s victory was confirmed. Thus, Yang Hee-jong’s ‘LAST DEFENCE’ reached a perfect finale with KGC’s victory.
KGC to take on a new challenge The
free agency season began immediately after the season, which was like a drama, was over. A total of 47 players obtained the FA qualification this time. At KGC, Ham Jun-hoo, Bae Byung-jun, Moon Seong-gon, and Oh Se-geun obtained FA qualifications.
The start wasn’t bad. KGC started the free agent market by catching Bae Byung-jun for 3 years and a total of 200 million won in compensation. Subsequently, KGC succeeded in recruiting Choi Seong-won, who was one of the players who received the most attention in the free agent market, for 3 years and 400 million won. The joining of Choi Seong-won, who received a lot of attention with his tremendous presence in the championship match, was a card that could fill the void caused by Byun Jun-hyung’s enlistment.
But the problem was after that. Oh Se-geun, who won the final MVP and announced his good health, and Moon Seong-gon, who won the best defense award for four consecutive years, were resources that KGC must protect. However, as a result, KGC failed to protect both of these key resources.
The first player to announce the transfer was Moon Seong-gon. Moon Seong-gon left KGC after signing a contract with KT for 5 years and 780 million won. Moon Seong-gon’s heart was moved by KT’s sincerity to recruit him.
Oh Se-geun’s transfer was a shock itself. Since his debut in 2011, Oh Se-geun, who commanded the KBL stage by winning 4 championship rings only at KGC, chose to transfer with SK for 3 years and 50 million won in July. Both the KGC club and fans were shocked by the choice of Oh Se-geun, who seemed to remain the eternal Lion King of Anyang.
Originally, KGC planned to catch both Oh Se-geun and Moon Seong-gon. However, as a result, both players were missed as they could not offer satisfactory conditions. KGC, which decided that it would be difficult to catch Moon Seong-gon, belatedly presented a new condition to Oh Se-geun, but Oh Se-geun was already in a state of regret for the club.
KGC, which had a huge power vacuum due to the simultaneous departure of Oh Se-geun and Moon Seong-gon, recruited Jung Hyo-geun (3 years, 500 million won) and Lee Jong-hyun (150 million won, 1 year). In summary, KGC succeeded in recruiting Choi Seong-won, Jeong Hyo-geun, and Lee Jong-hyun in the free agent market, but missed Moon Seong-gon and Oh Se-geun. The recruited players are obviously talented players, but to be honest, it is regrettable that they can replace the vacant positions of Moon Seong-gon and Oh Se-geun.
Anyway, KGC has been preparing for the next season in a big change. SK, which emerged as a strong championship candidate by recruiting Oh Se-geun, and KCC, which completed the national team lineup of Heo Woong-Lee Seung-hyun-Song Gyo-chang-Choi Jun-yong after succeeding in recruiting Choi Jun-yong, faced strong challenges. It is worth paying attention to how KGC, who will start next season as the defending champion, will meet their challenge.