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An Interview With Ha Seung-jin Back In Korea

Posted June. 30, 2004 22:22,   


“I chose ‘five’ because first, I want to be among the best five in my team, and further, one of the best five players in the NBA.”

Ha Seung-jin (19, 2m23), the first Korean ever to be selected in the NBA draft, by the Portland Trail Blazers, arrived at Incheon International Airport with his father, Ha Dong-ki, in the morning of June 30. Ha, who showed a very bright and confident expression all the way, spoke of his great aspirations in the interview.

He wanted to be assigned the number 13, which he had worn while leading his teammates to 22 victories with Samil Commercial High School, but 13 is a permanently retired number in Portland. It is the number of Dave Twardzik, who helped the Trail Blazers to a NBA Championship in 1977. “I had the number five as a national team player. I chose the number for various reasons,” said Ha. “I thank my father for always cheering and giving me support.”

--Aren’t you disappointed that you were picked in the second-round?

“At first, I expected to be a first-round pick, but later I felt more at ease at the thought that I am going on to the NBA anyways. I had to be in Korea to retry for the first-round but I had no intention to do that. There is no opportunity in Korea for me to practice my skills against tall and powerful players.”

--What has been the reaction of your new team?

“They seem to expect a lot from me since they have no tall centers. Nine players will be free agents next year, so even if I don’t make it as one of the starters now, I feel that I will have a good chance.”

--Are you feeling any difference after training starting from last December in the U.S.?

“My weight is the same but I lost a lot of fat. I completely fixed all my bad habits I had in Korea. I was a little intimidated when I played with African Americans because they were so powerful and speedy, but I got accustomed to it later. My English has improved a lot.”

--How is your physical condition?

“My shoulder muscles have become better above everything. I am trying on ameliorating my physical strength and speed. I will concentrate on improving my physical fitness this year.”

--What is your upcoming schedule?

“I will go to meet coach Kim Nam-ki of Yonsei University and depart after staying for about ten days. I will do my best with the responsibility of being the first Korean NBA player.”

Won-Hong Lee bluesky@donga.com