The country’s top division professional basketball league opens its 2011-2012 season this week with defending champions KCC Egis playing an opener against SK Knights on Thursday.
The Korean Basketball League enters the new season with high expectations and fierce competition among the 10 teams.
One of the biggest changes this season is the new rule on foreign players ― the number of foreign players teams can employ has been reduced from two to one.
The Egis, which boasts the country’s tallest player Ha Seung-jin, are the strong favorites to win the title.
Last season, the 221-cm-tall center produced a robust 16.1 points per game and also averaged 8.5 rebounds in 44 regular season games to help the team win the title.
KBL managers and players pose with the 2011-2012 championship trophy during a press conference at Westin Chosun Hotel in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap News)
But speaking at the press conference in Seoul on Monday, Ha admitted that he felt pressure to prepare for the new season.
“I’m a little bit worried as now we have only one foreign center on our team, which means I have to stay on court longer and play better,” Ha said.
The 26-year-old center added that he hopes to play an injury-free season with an eye on back-to-back league titles.
The 2010-2011 season runners-up Dongbu Promy are considered the Egis’ leading rivals for KBL supremacy.
National team forward Kim Joo-sung, who had 14 points per game in the 2010-2011 season, will lead the team, looking for their first title since 2008.
“We have goals this year of being better than we were last year. We want to win the title,” said Promy manger Kang Dong-hee.
The Anyang KGC, which signed 200-cm-tall rookie forward Oh Se-keun, are also considered strong favorites to win the title.
The LG Sakers, which signed with veteran manger Kim Jin and added former national team center Seo Jang-hoon, also boast a strong mix of youth and experience.
The Sakers made it to the playoffs in five successive seasons, but failed to win a title. The players believe this year will be different.
“Everybody on our team is excited about the new season, and I believe we have a good chance to make an impact this year,” the 37-year-old veteran center Seo said.
The opening game between the KCC Egis and SK Knights is scheduled for Thursday at the Egis’ home in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province.
By Oh Kyu-wook (email@example.com