KOREA coach Cho Sang Hyun played down their basketball rivalry with the Philippines in comments on Sunday that surely won't endear him to Filipino fans.
The Philippines always considered Korea its as archrival in Asian basketball, which explains the jubilation after Gilas Pilipinas swept the team that brought heartbreaks to the nation in the past. including in the 2002 Asian Games.
Cho, however, said he didn't think much about the decades-old rivalry as he spoke after another Korean setback at the hands of the Tab Baldwin-coached Gilas side, 82-77, in the Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers inside the Clark bubble in Pampanga.
“Personally, I didn’t think of the Philippines as a rival but I always find very useful things after playing against the Philippines. That’s what my perspective of this game,” Cho, incidentally a member of the Korea side that beat the Philippines in the 2002 Asian Games semifinals on Lee Sang Min's buzzer-beating trey in Busan, said through a translator.
The newly appointed Korea coach first drew the ire of Filipino fans on Wednesday when he said Gilas beat Korea only because of a 'lucky shot' made by SJ Belangel at the buzzer to clinch a high-emotional 81-78 win for the home side.
His latest comments should fire up the emotions again.
There was no need for a desperate shot in Sunday’s return match as Gilas' youth-laden yet gritty side held its nerves under grinding pressure to hack out a 82-77 win.
Cho rued Korea's inability to control the boards, which he said led to the defeat.
“That’s always a lifelong homework for Korea basketball team which is getting the rebounds. We have to improve on that part. For that, I think we have to work really hard,” said Cho.
Cho, however, said he is looking at the bigger picture as he prepares Korea for the Fiba Asia Cup in Indonesia in August. Korea qualified as the second placer in Group A with a 4-2 card behind the Philippines' 6-0 mark.
“I would like to thank my players who played their best and their heart to the game,” said Cho.
“There were definitely some areas that we need to work on. For example, the wings, they got to be after the ball really hard and those kinds of things, we can work on before the Asia Cup in Jakarta.”
“Overall, we really took a good lesson in Clark, Philippines by figuring out those weaknesses of the team.”
South Korea is headed next to Kaunas, Lithuania for the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament, where it has host Lithuania and Venezuela in its group.
Cho said the OQT is the ultimate goal for Korea and he was happy to give his young players the exposure they need in the Clark qualifiers.
“For this games in Clark, I would like to give a lot of opportunities for the young ones. For the Olympic qualifiers, I would like to figure out the strong points that we had for this experience. That’s what I’m aiming for, to qualify for the Olympics,” said Cho.