JINAN, China (2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship for Women): Korean Basketball Association Park So Hum flew into Jinan only to watch his team play the semifinal against China.
“I came in to boost the morale of my team. But I got a fantastic reward from them,” Park said in reference to Korea’s win over the mighty China in the semifinals, and qualifying to represent FIBA Asia in the 2012 FIBA World U17 Championship for Women in the Netherlands.
“Frankly speaking, it was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t think our girls had the wherewithal to fight against China in China,” said the president of the Korea Secondary School Basketball Federation, an organization that has contributed many of the players in the current team.
“I know all these players since they come from the organization I represent. I knew they were very skillful,” he went on.
“But what I did not realize was their strong will-power and the never say die attitude. I am very happy I came,” he said.
Korea failed to continue the momentum, and lost to Japan in the final, but Park shrugged it off saying: “It doesn’t matter.”
“Look beating China in China, that too in a play-off game is a big achievement for my girls. It doesn’t happen often. I don’t want to take away the sheen off that win talking about the defeat in the final,” he said.
“Of course, we would have liked to have won. But then we have to concede that we lost to a better and more organized team,” Park said.
“Qualifying for the Worlds has opened unexpected opportunities for Korean basketball. We now have a chance to compete against the world’s best. Most importantly, our girls will get to play the best from Europe and America. This is a God-sent opportunity as far as Korean basketball is concerned,” he said.
“Korean basketball in the age-group competitions has not been impressive. I accept that. But then there were various factors affecting this,” he said.
“Even for this event, we had to really work hard to put together the team. It’s very difficult to get all the schools to release their players. But I think this (qualifying) will open the eyes of those who were skeptical about the team,” he explained.
Talking of the future of the team and its preparations for the World U17 Championship, Park said: “We have to accept we have neglected the advantages of long-term preparations. Now is the time to set that record straight and work hard towards regaining Korea’s lost glory in international women’s basketball.”
“We have to start towards putting together a proper and concrete plan keeping in mind the long-term goals. We can’t afford to let this fantastic performance go waste,” Park said.
“We would love to have some foreign exposure trips for various groups of teams as we prepare to go for the Worlds. There are huge budgetary constraints. But I am confident I can convince all the stakeholders to chip in and prepare a solid team,” he said.
“These youngsters have shown us what they are capable even with little time and resources for preparation. Now, I can imagine what they can do given the right training and facilities. We want to capitalize on this performance,” he said.
S Mageshwaran / FIBA Asia