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Veteran Hoops Star Now a Team Player

Posted December. 22, 2006 03:28,   


“I want to quit. It’s time for me to rest.”

Early in this season, Woo Ji-won (33) suddenly told his manager Yoo Jae-hak that he wanted to retire. His self-respect was seriously hurt as he had to keep sitting on the bench for much of the time despite being the player on the team with the highest salary (240 million won).

In the playoffs last season, he had to play as the team’s sixth man. Things didn’t get much better for him this season, so he thought that it would be better to take off his jersey.

Having been Woo’s mentor for more than 10 years since when they first met at Yonsei University in the early 1990s, manager Yoo was very disappointed in Woo and scolded him in a furious tone, “Can’t you even stand this little hardship? You should abandon you star-mentality and be more modest if you want to survive. Think about your wife and kids. Don’t you think you should overcome this?”

Accepting his mentor’s sincere advice, Woo braced himself up, thinking he could not finish his 20+-year basketball career like this. When he thought that he was on the edge of the cliff, he began to change. Woo started to give up his ‘princely’ image, which had once brought him to stardom. Even though he was a forward with a height of 193 centimeters, his average number of rebounds for the nine seasons up to last year has been a mere 2.1. It was because he has preferred to make middle-range shots away from the rim, abstaining from the fierce physical contests under it.

Now Woo is more devoted in chores on the court such as rebounds or defense, no matter how long he gets to play. In the first round, he had an average of 21 minutes of playing time, 8.4 points, and 2.1 rebounds. In the second and third round, it has improved to 32 minutes, 12.1 points and 4.5 rebounds. Nowadays, Woo checks his rebound status regularly as soon as a quarter or the game is over.

“I used to think that offense was my only obligation. Now I’m willing to make more contributions to the team in different ways. I actually feel more confident and my shots are getting better too.”

Being proud of his new nickname “footman,” Woo now feels that in his mid-30s, his eyes have opened to a new world of basketball. As Woo turned brighter from the depressed frowning person on the bench he used to be, the team is also on an updraft. Mobis recently reeled off ten wins in a row on their home court and is standing firmly on the top of the standings. Woo’s efforts have played a big part in this.