A KOREAN legend from the seventies who remains popular among Filipinos to this day has arrived to help fire up their national squad ahead of the much-awaited showdown with Gilas Pilipinas on Saturday night.
The great Shin Dong Pa, widely regarded as one of the finest Asian shooters of all time, is back in the country exactly 40 years after the Korean team he starred in lost in the finals of the 1973 Asian Championships to a Philippine team led by Robert Jaworski and Bogs Adornado.
“He (Shin) came here (in Manila) yesterday (Thursday). He talked to us before though haven’t talked to us now," said big man Lee Seung Jun shortly after helping South Korea clinch a semifinal seat opposite Gilas with a 79-52 whipping of Qatar on Friday night.
Lee said Shin remains a revered figure in Korean basketball to this day, his "good, old reminders" a source of inspiration for the country's current crop of cage stars.
"The last time he talked to us, he reminded us that when we put our jersey on, it’s different because this is more than just a game, but that there’s people cheering for us, (Korean) families cheering for us,” said Lee of the 66-year-old Shin.
The 6-8 Lee, whose father is American and whose mother is Korean, said he’s aware of Korea’s long-standing basketball history against the Filipinos, having heard about it from Shin himself.
“The game has a lot on the line. Of course, the atmosphere will be different here in the Philippines. It will be fun to have fans who create an atmosphere of fun and we’re looking forward to an exciting game,” added the 35-year-old half-Korean.
Lee, also known as Eric Lee Sandrin, said he’s also well aware of the Filipinos’ last Asian championship on home soil 40 years ago when the likes of Jaworski and the late Tembong Melencio conspired to limit Shin in the title game held at the old Rizal Memorial Coliseum.
But he’s hopeful that they could beat the Gilas Pilipinas squad, which is banking on the huge home support on Saturday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“They (Gilas) are a very athletic team. They have that advantage because they are fast and like to play up-tempo,” noted the Korean big man.
“They like to run, which we will try to stop and whatever set they try to use, we’re confident that coach (Yoo Jae Hak) will come up with a strategy. So we are looking forward to play them.”