It was a tournament with intentions promote the relations between Asia Pacific nations and the rest of the world, but what host country South Korea promoted was there advancement in domestic basketball development. After five days of tough basketball competition, South Korea finished undefeated to claim gold at the 2015 Asia Pacific University Basketball Challenge.
University of Ottawa 68 – Japan 72
Korea 98 – Korea (B team) 67
Korea 101 – University of Ottawa 72
Russia 98 – Japan 73
Russia 82 – University of Ottawa 49
Korea (B team) 69 – Japan 61
Korea (B team) 73 – Russia 86
Korea 80 – Japan 65
Korea 96 – Russia 91
Korea (B team) 70 – University of Ottawa 83
Three out of the five teams who participate in the tournament will represent their countries at the 2015 Gwangju Summer Universiade beginning next week: Russia, Japan, and Korea. The final game between Russia and Korea to determine first place was nothing short of a thriller. It took two overtime periods to decide the outcome. Korea’s Junyong Choi played his best game of the tournament finishing with 21 points and six rebounds before fouling out. But with the win came a massive loss for the Korea as top KBL prospect Seonggon Moon was taken out of the game via stretcher after suffering a nasty fall while attempting a layup through traffic. The doctors confirmed nothing was broken, but he will be out for at least two-weeks. He is still questionable for the Gwangju Universiades.
The University of Ottawa, despite only winning one game, really benefited from their experience in South Korea. They were without their top two players including CIS player of the year Johnny Berhanemeskel who’s with the All-Canadian national team training in Kansas, America, for the upcoming Gwangju Universiades.
“A mistake coaches often make is when a player is used to having a small role on the team, then they suddenly get a bigger role, and they don’t fit in to it immediately, coaches get frustrated very quickly. When in fact it takes time for players to get used to that role,” says University of Ottawa head coach James Derouin.
“Two of our wings, Mackenzie Morrison and Brandon Robinson, were faced with that challenge. We were asking much more from those players. But I’m happy with their progression. Speaking realistically, that’s the way it had to happen. It was four games in five days. I was really on them this weekend. But now they know that my expectations for them are higher for them. I thought in the final game they answered the call. That gives me some hope going into next season. I’m happy we had the opportunity to make some mistakes here rather than make them in the first four games of the season.”
Derouin was quick to point out the top-class hospitality from the tournament organizers and says he would love to return to South Korea if not for basketball then, a social vacation.
“There are things you see as a coach and a program builder that the players might not see. From the moment we arrived here we were so well taken care of; from the food to the accommodations. We received phenomenal treatment.”
University of Ottawa point guard Michael L’African had an excellent tournament for the Gee-Gees. He was able to utilize his handles against the quick Asian guards and make plays through very intense zone defenses. L’African, who solidifies himself as a basketball junkie, says he watches about 700 to 1000 games per year, from the Korea leagues to East European leagues. He calls the opportunity to make his Asian basketball debut something he’s waiting for a long time.
“On T.V., basketball here (South Korea) looks like its pass, pass, pass, pass, but when you actually play against them you learn how physical it is. It was a great experience. For myself and the younger guys on the team it was great to get the feel of how basketball is played on the other side of the world,” says L’African.
The only issue with this year’s challenge was the country’s current scare of MERS. Two teams, China and Philippines, dropped out of the tournament because of MERS. This also impacted the tournament’s attendance rate. Last year’s event saw about 60 percent of Jamsil arena filled with fans for the big games compared to this years 10 percent. But with the success and high level of competition shown this year, you can be sure that Asia Pacific University Basketball Challenge will only grow in popularity for years to come.