Veteran Park Chan Hee turns out to be the ace up Korea coach Hur Jae's sleeve
Park Chan Hee played just 10 minutes for Korea in its first four games in the Fiba Asia Cup before he was unleashed against Gilas Pilipinas. Photo from Fiba

IT’S easy to pinpoint how Korea outclassed Gilas Pilipinas in the Fiba Asia Cup quarterfinals on Thursday in Beirut.

Looking at the team stats in Korea’s 118-86 romp over Gilas, the Koreans won every aspect, save for offensive rebounds. It was a complete display of dominance with surgical precision on offense putting out every comeback attempt by the Filipino cagers.

The master surgeon, though, is the man who only set foot on the court for 13 minutes: point guard Park Chan Hee.

Safe to say, Korea coach Hur Jae kept the 30-year-old Park as the ace up his sleeve as he only played the guard a little over 10 minutes in the four games before the Gilas match. He was also the lone Korean in the Fiba Asia Cup roster who didn’t play in the Jones Cup, perhaps to keep him out of the prying eyes of Gilas and other scouts.

[See As heartbreaking as Gilas loss to Korea was, it wasn't even the worst]

Still, Park’s no stranger to Gilas as he was already there in the Koreans’ thrilling comeback to win third place in the 2011 Fiba Asia Championship, although he averaged just 4 points and 3.2 assists per game in that tournament.

For the ongoing Fiba Asia Cup, the 6-foot-3 guard was also putting up 2 points a game but made up for his scoring with his excellent playmaking, dishing 6.25 assists in limited action before the Gilas game.

Against the Philippine team, however, Park was unleashed. He had his best scoring game so far with nine points, but he stood out the most with his passing, with pinpoint passes to the rolling bigs on the pick and roll action, to wingers on backdoor cuts, and to the shooters on the pick and pop.

Park had nine assists, just five less than the entire Gilas team. And he was Korea’s second most efficient player with an efficiency rating of +21 behind starting guard Kim Sun Hyung, who scored 21 points along with four assists and three steals for a +26 efficiency.

[See Commentary: Gilas lured into fighting a tactical battle vs Korea that it just can't win]

For the tournament, Park is now averaging a third-best 6.8 assists on just 11 minutes of action off the bench. But he’s no regular substitute. Based on his stats in the Korean Basketball League, he’s arguably Korea’s best player.

Playing for ET Land in the KBL, Park led the league in assists with 7 a game, and tied for fifth in steals with 1.7 swipes. He also led his team to the quarterfinals, where they fell short against a Samsung squad bannered by former Star Hotshots import Ricardo Ratliffe and former TNT KaTropa reinforcement Michael Craig.


The heady Korea guard also racked up a number of individual awards, making the All-KBL first team along Ratliffe and another ex-TNT import in David Simon. Park was also named KBL Domestic Player of the Year and Guard of the Year.

With his masterful performance so far, there just might be a new Best Point Guard in Asia in Korea’s super-sub Park.

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