JAKARTA — Yeng Guiao was on point when he mentioned that South Korea is more than just Ricardo Ratliffe, the former PBA import who is now playing as a naturalized player for the reigning Asian Games champions.
Six players finished in double figures for the South Koreans in their first two games and they even became deadlier in their latest win against Thailand, which they beat soundly by 40 points, 117-77, and drew 20 points or more from three players.
Ratliffe, the 6-foot-8 cager who is also a veteran in the Korean Basketball League, finished with 21 points. In three games, he has averaged 23 points and 13 rebounds to lead his squad.
True enough, South Korea, which is bringing nearly practically a new squad this year, has been getting balance contributions from the rest of the squad.
Jeon Junbeom, one of the few prized acquisitions of the squad, should be another player on the target of the Rain or Shine-Pilipinas’ defense. Turing 27 in a few days, Jeon has been remarkable with his three-point shooting, hitting five-of-eight in their blowout victory over Thailand on his way to finishing 20 points. He also had a solid showing against Mongolia where he knocked down four-of-six treys to end up with 16 markers.
Heo Ung, a promising 6-foot-1 guard, is also a newcomer in the team, but shown a lot of potential following his decent shooting in the first three games. He has averaged 12 points per game for the South Koreans, including a perfect three-for-three shooting from beyond the arc in their latest win against Thailand.
Heo Ilyoung and Lee Junghyun, two of the holdover players from the squad that played four years ago, remained to be solid contributors.
The 6-foot-5 Heo had his best game against in his team’s 108-73 win over Mongolia where he finished with 20 points on six-of-nine shooting from behind the arc. He also had 11 markers in their debut win against host Indonesia. Heo averaged 13 points per game.
Lee is also a solid contributor. The 6-foot-3 forward averaged 11.6 points per game.
Size won’t be much of a problem against South Korea, according to Coach Yeng Guiao, and their familiarity on Ratliffe’s game would also be a plus factor. The biggest worry lies on their rivals’ ball movement and shooting and through the years, they’ve been successful using the same formula.
Hur Jae, the legendary coach of South Korea, who also became a torn on the Filipinos side when he was still playing for their national team, will now have an inside-out game with Ratliffe complementing his wards’ good shooting.
In all the three games they played in the group stage matches, South Korea didn’t shoot below 40% from the rainbow territory. Its best shooting performance was against Thailand where the team hit 47% from the three-point region (15-of-32).
“The best thing about South Korea is they’ve been so patient running their plays. They rely on their ball movement and would wait for an opportunity to break down the defense and attack it,” Guiao told BusinessWorld. “We just have to prepare hard.” — Rey Joble