Why Kim Jong Un wants to be like Moon Sung-gon, captain of Hyosung Girls’ High School

This interview was conducted in late March and published in the April 2023 issue of Basket Korea Webzine. (Link to purchase Basket Korea Webzine)

The April issue of Basket Korea features a conversation with Kim Jong-yeon, a senior at Hyosung Girls High School in Daegu. “On defense, KBL player Moon Sung-gon is my role model. I want to emulate his tenacity to get steals and rebounds,” said Kim, who is the only third grader on the team this year.

First, I’d like to know how you spent the past winter season.
I played in the Glory Stobrigg, and I did some training camps at different universities. We had more losses than wins, but I had a lot of hand-to-hand contact with my teammates. I didn’t play a lot of games for a while due to COVID-19, so it was a chance to get some hands-on experience.

I’m the captain of the team this year and the only sophomore.
Last year, there was less pressure because we had seniors, but being a junior, there’s a lot more pressure. This year, I feel like I have to perform on the field, and I have a lot more responsibility to lead the juniors.

What’s the team atmosphere like?
It’s very good, we don’t have a lot of teammates so we know each other well and it’s like a family, but we still don’t talk much during matches, so we’re trying to talk more on and off the court.

You participated in the 60th Spring National Girls’ and Boys’ Basketball Federation Games, which concluded on March 22.
After passing the preliminary round, we lost to Gwangju Supia Girls’ High School in the finals. We aimed to qualify for the main round before the tournament, but we were still very disappointed. Personally, I thought we needed to improve our offense after the breakthrough.

In the first game against Sunil Girls’ High School, I had 19 points, including three 3-pointers, 19 rebounds, three blocked shots, and two assists in 40 minutes.
The game was coming down to the wire, and I didn’t have the calmness to shoot the ball on my last offensive possession, which was very disappointing, and I’ll try to be calmer in the April Association Championships.

I think there will be some physical challenges because we only have five teammates.
It’s a little hard to keep playing even when you’re tired because there are no substitutes, so I paid more attention to physical fitness in winter training. Coach Yang (Sun-hee) also told me to try to play an extra step on offense and defense. When I play against an opponent who hasn’t rested in a game, I might get beaten a little bit, but I’m confident in my basic game fitness.

I look forward to the next tournament. Let’s talk about how you started playing basketball.
I started when I was in the fifth grade at Wolbae Elementary School. I was playing basketball in gym class, and the gym teacher asked me if I wanted to join the basketball team. (Were you tall?) No, I was not. I was short, but I think he saw me making shots and suggested it.

Did your parents say yes?
My parents didn’t realize it was an elite sport, they thought it was just recreational club basketball, and they weren’t really interested (laughs). But after I started playing professionally in middle school, they were very supportive.

You’re now 5’10” and play forward. When did you get so tall?
When I went to junior high school, I suddenly got taller. I think I grew about 10 to 15 centimeters in my first year of junior high school alone. (There must have been a position change.) In elementary school, I was 150 centimeters and played guard. I was the smallest in the team, but in junior high school, I became the tallest. In terms of position, I played forward, but when I was defending, I played against the opposing center. It was a little difficult because I was playing against a guard and trying to defend a center.

What drives you to continue playing basketball?
When I was in elementary school, I didn’t realize I was an elite athlete. I just went because my teacher told me to go to the auditorium after class, and when I got there, I saw my older sisters running around. At first, I was embarrassed and didn’t go (to practice), but then I realized that I had no teammates and I had to play. Then, in middle school, I grew taller, lost weight, got faster, and became more confident when I started shooting 3-pointers. I think that’s when I became more interested in basketball and worked harder.

After graduating from Wolbae Elementary School, I went to Hyosung Middle School. If I look back at my middle school days briefly.
In my first year of middle school, we weren’t a very good team, but in my second year, we got second and third place. We got third place at the end-of-year tournament, which I think is the most memorable because it was the first time we won. In my third year, we barely went to the tournament due to COVID-19.

I won a bronze medal at nationals last year.
In my freshman year of high school, we didn’t compete because we didn’t have enough people, so I only competed in one event with my club teammates. In my sophomore year, we competed with five people, but we were able to place third in the event because we practiced consistently and hard, so it was great.

Tell us about your strengths as a player.
I was too slow in elementary school, so I wanted to get faster, so I practiced a lot, and I often got blocked in one-on-one situations, so I took a lot of shots. I still have a lot of work to do on my three-point shot, but I’m confident in my mid-range jumper.

What do you want to work on?
My timing on my 3-point shot is a little slow, so I don’t shoot it much in games yet, but I’m working on it. I have to defend the center because of the team situation. I’m not as strong as the other centers, so sometimes I get beaten in physical battles. Sometimes I get overwhelmed when (the opponent) pushes inside, so I think I need to put on more weight. I also watch a lot of videos of professional players defending.메이저놀이터

Do you have any role models?
I like Devin Booker of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns because his shot is so precise, and I want to learn from Samsung Life’s Kang Yoo-rim and BNK’s Lee So-hee’s offensive abilities. On defense, KBL’s Moon Sung-gon is my role model, and I want to emulate his obsession with getting steals and rebounds.

Finally, what are your goals and resolutions for 2023?
I want to win a medal at the Games again this year, and I’ll try to work harder with my teammates since I’m representing Daegu. I’ll also try to finish my last year of high school without any injuries so that I can see good results.

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