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KBL names upcoming winners and dark horses

Egis, Knights named winners; Sonic Boom voted likely dark horse
Oct 12,2017
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From left: Kim Young-hwan of the Busan KT Sonic Boom, Jeon Tae-poong of the Jeonju KCC Egis, Doo Kyung-min of the Wonju Dongbu Promy, Kim Sun-hyung of the Seoul SK Knights, Heo Il-young of the Goyang Orion Orions, Oh Se-keun of the Anyang KGC, Kim Jong-kyu of the Changwon LG Sakers, Kim Tae-sul of the Seoul Samsung Thunders, Jung Young-sam of the Incheon ET Land Elephants and Yang Dong-geun of the Ulsan Mobis Phoebis during media day at The K-hotel on Wednesday. [YONHAP]
With the 2017-18 season of the Korean Basketball League (KBL) starting on Saturday, the KBL held a media day at The K-hotel in Seoul on Wednesday.

In addition to the 10 coaches, a player from each of the 10 teams also attended.

Since the teams got to play in practice games during the offseason, the hottest topic was the likely teams to win and the dark horse.

The Jeonju KCC Egis and Seoul SK Knights were selected as the most likely teams to compete for a victory this season, while Incheon ET-Land Elephants and Busan KT Sonic Boom were considered the dark horses for the season, selected by the players.

“Since 80 percent of basketball comes from member organization and team strategy, I think that is why our name was mentioned the most,” said Moon Kyung-eun, head coach of the Knights.

Aside from the Knights’ third place finish in the 2014-15 season, they’ve been struggling the past two seasons, finishing second-to-last and seventh.

However, with the addition of Aaron Haynes, who played for the Goyang Orion Orions, the team may be back on track.

Last season, Haynes managed to play in 41 games, scoring 20.27 points per game.

Though Haynes is an older player, the coaches believe Haynes’ addition to the team will strengthen the Knights.

“My goal is to make sure Haynes can play in all 54 games this season,” Moon said. “Since Terrico White will have more playing time this season, Haynes will have less pressure in having to play full-time.”

Following the Knights, the Egis received the second-most number of votes from head coaches, as they’ve included Lee Jung-hyun, who became a free agent after the KGC’s Championship victory, upon completion of the 2016-17 season.

“My two seasons as the head coach was like a rollercoaster ride,” said Choo Seung-gyun, head coach of Egis. “First year, we won, and last year, we finished last. That said, this season, we’ll make good results thinking that there’s nowhere to get any worse than last season.”

Since Lee made his KLB debut in the 2010, he played six seasons with the KGC, and last season, he played a vital role in leading the team to success.

While playing in 54 games throughout the regular season, Lee managed to score 15.28 points per game.

“We had a practice game [against the Egis] and they had great members,” said Lee Sang-min, head coach of Seoul Samsung Thunders. “With the addition of Lee Jung-hyun, they rely less on Andre Emmett compared to last season. Once they control the aggressiveness, then I think they are the most likely team to win this season.”

Meanwhile, Sonic Boom received the most votes for the likely dark horse.

The Sonic Boom had quite a disappointing result in the 2016-17 season, finishing second-to-last in the KBL with 18 wins and 36 losses.

“We’ve made great additions with our foreign players so we’re in the process of making a good team,” said Kim Young-hwan, head coach of the Sonic Boom.

The KBL also announced its title sponsor for the 2017-18 season, the Anyang KGC, for the first time since the team was first established in 1992.

Though the KGC wasn’t mentioned as the team to win, just by the statistics, they are very likely to dominate the KBL this season, as they’ve won both the regular and the Championship in the 2016-17 season.

The KGC will start the KBL season with a game against the Thunders at Anyang Gymnasium at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

BY KIM HEE-SEON [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]