‘Surprise trade’ Lee Jong-hyun, this is his last chance￼
A new start at KCC, how well he adapts to the coaching style is a variable
Lee Jong-hyun, who was unable to revive in Goyang, will start a new start in Jeonju. On February 1st, Lee Jong-hyun got to wear the KCC uniform through a 2-1 surprise trade between Goyang Carrot and Jeonju KCC. Carrot recruited Kim Jin-yong and Park Jae-hyun on the condition of giving up Lee Jong-hyun. For Lee Jong-hyun, KCC is the third professional team to welcome after Goyang Orion, the predecessor of Ulsan Hyundai Mobis and Carrot.
To basketball fans, Lee Jong-hyun is like a ‘sore finger’. Lee Jong-hyun, who is not an ordinary player and was once expected to be the best prospect to lead Korean basketball, makes the gap with reality more disappointing.
Lee Jong-hyun, a second-generation basketball player, is the son of Mr. Lee Jun-ho, who played an active role as a center during the unemployed Kia Motors era. He went through the prestigious basketball school Whimoon Middle School, Kyungbok High School, and Korea University, and attracted attention early on as a next-generation special center. His height of 203 cm and a wingspan of 223 cm were considered the most ideal for a big man.
In particular, after entering Korea University in 2013, he formed a twin tower with Lee Seung-hyun (KCC) and won three consecutive college league victories, leading the championship in the ‘pro-ama best match’ that encompasses college and pro, sweeping both the college league and the best match MVP. In the adult national team, he also contributed to Korea winning the gold medal in 12 years at the 2014 Basketball World Cup finals and the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, and even received military service benefits. In 2015, although he was not nominated, he challenged the NBA (American Professional Basketball) rookie draft, which had been a long-time dream.
At that time, Lee Jong-hyun was evaluated as virtually unrivaled on the domestic university stage. It was evaluated that he would establish himself as an elite native big man standing shoulder to shoulder with top professional seniors such as Kim Jong-kyu (DB) – Kim Joo-seong (retired) – Oh Se-geun (KGC) – Lee Seung-hyun. Some even expected that he could become the ‘successor of Seo Jang-hoon and Kim Joo-seong’, which is considered a representative legend of the native big man.
Reflecting the expectations of the basketball world, in the KBL domestic rookie draft held on October 3, 2016, Lee Jong-hyun was nominated by Ulsan Hyundai Mobis as the first overall pick, as expected. When director Yoo Jae-hak, who was famous for his solemn image at the time, received the first-place nomination in an unusual way, the image of him raising his arms and embracing his beloved pupils Yang Dong-geun and Ham Ji-hoon in cheers became a hot topic. Coach Yoo Jae-hak naturally nominated Lee Jong-hyun, and many predicted that Lee Jong-hyun would become the next generation Hyundai Mobis franchise star and a big man who would dominate professional basketball.
However, as of 2023, seven years after that, the ‘era of Lee Jong-hyun’ has not come to Korean basketball. Suffering from a series of serious injuries after entering the professional league, Lee Jong-hyun was unable to fully develop his talent. His Achilles tendon and cruciate ligament injuries took him longer to rehabilitate than play on the basketball court.
Compared to the fact that his best friend Choi Jun-yong, who was nominated for Seoul SK in second place behind Lee Jong-hyun, has confidently grown into a league MVP-level player, it feels different. Lee Jong-hyun eventually left Hyundai Mobis for the 2020-2021 season and moved to Goyang Orion. However, both at Orion and at Carrot, which followed him, Lee Jong-hyun could not take his place properly due to injuries and poor performance.
Lee Jong-hyun, who had been forgotten in the eyes of basketball fans for a while, recently gained attention again for a while thanks to the effect of appearing on TV. In the KBS entertainment program <The Boss Ears Donkey Ears>, as the story of CEO Heo Jae and the new Carrot team was drawn, Lee Jong-hyun also appeared.
However, most of them were portrayed as gritty ‘gubakdegi’ characters who were scolded harshly by CEO Heo Jae or director Kim Seung-gi, rather than positive images. There was a reason why the great seniors in the basketball world bullied Lee Jong-hyun so much.
CEO Heo Jae mentioned to Lee Jong-hyun on the air, “I was highly expected to become a star, but after his professional debut, there was no performance at all for 5-6 years. He should play with the thought that this year will be his last.” Coach Kim Seung-ki also said, “Lee Jong-hyun is no longer a competent player. He needs to change his mental state, attitude, and attitude toward basketball.”
Lee Jong-hyun, who appealed for his earnestness, was given a relatively large amount of playing time at the beginning of this season, but did not show a steady and stable appearance as coach Kim Seung-gi expected. The record left by Lee Jong-hyun at Carrot this season was an average of 3.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 24 games. KBL’s career record is 6.6 points and 4.3 rebounds in an average of 19 minutes and 11 seconds, and the season’s average appearance is only 22 games so that it is in its 7th year.
In the end, Carrot, who felt the limit, chose to trade instead of continuing to accompany Lee Jong-hyun. To put it bluntly, it can be seen as a blessing in disguise. If it is difficult to guarantee Lee Jong-hyun consistent playing time within the team anyway, it can be seen as giving the player a new opportunity from a team that can play more. 토토사이트
At least at KCC, there is Lee Seung-hyun, a senior who has worked together for a long time during his time at Korea University, the national team, and Orion, and is close to Lee Jong-hyun. Coincidentally, Lee Jong-hyun is expected to get more opportunities at KCC, where Lee Seung-hyun is having difficulty in fighting heights as Lee Seung-hyun recently broke away from the line due to an elbow injury. Also, the fact that Lee Jong-hyun, who has a weak personality, has someone he can rely on like Lee Seung-hyun can be a great psychological strength. However, the variable is how well he can adapt to the teaching style of director Jeon Chang-jin, who is considered synonymous with strict and fearsome directors in KBL, as much as his previous teachers, Yoo Jae-hak and Kim Seung-gi.
Lee Jong-hyun now has to prove his worth as a backup big man or role player who is faithful to dirty work by doing his part even during his short playing time of 5 or 10 minutes. The challenge at KCC may be the last chance for Lee Jong-hyun to decide whether he will survive as a professional player.