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Yang Hong-seok’s gesture to Yoo Ji-sang

Changwon LG’s Yang Hong-seok and Yoo Yoo-sang once again led their team to victory in professional basketball. “I can imagine Yoo Yoo-sang wearing a tie and accepting the award,” laughed the ‘senior’ as he congratulated the younger Yoo on winning the Rookie of the Year award.

LG won 80-77 away from home against the Goyang Sono in the 2023-24 Korean Basketball Association regular season at the Goyang Sono Arena on Jan. 1. It was LG’s fourth straight victory and moved them into sole possession of second place in the standings.

The key to the victory was once again an even performance from its domestic players. Despite the long-term absence of Asem Marei, LG had finished the first four rounds with five wins and four losses. They continued their winning streak by defeating Sono once again.

Yang Hong-seok and Yoo Yoo-sang shined the brightest on the court.

Yang Hong-seok had an up-and-down performance throughout the quarterfinals, finishing with 16 points, including three three-pointers, three assists and one steal in 35 minutes and six seconds.

“Rookie” Yoo was responsible for the first half and the end of the fourth quarter. After scoring 18 points against Sono on March 30, he was responsible for 13 points in the first half alone, including two three-pointers. He showed off his ability to shoot accurately, even in contested situations. He was quiet in the second half as he was held in check by his opponent, but he made both of his free throws with 14 seconds left in the game to extend the lead to three. Sono cut the deficit to one point in the final seconds, but Yoo Yoo-sang threw cold water on the game, grabbing the final defensive rebound to secure the win. Yoo ended up with 15 points and eight rebounds in 31 minutes and 23 seconds. He set a new career-high for rebounds in a single game.

After the game, the players were honored with the man of the match award and spoke to the media. “I’m very happy to win, just like in the last game. Most importantly, we got a valuable win away from home without any major injuries. We have a lot to reflect on, but we’ll enjoy the joy of victory even more,” he laughed. “We made a lot of turnovers that we shouldn’t have, so we’re reflecting on that. I’m glad we won,” he added.

One of the main topics of interest for the media was Yoo’s recent hot streak, which saw him score in double figures on three occasions in January. He is now ahead of Park Mubin (Ulsan Hyundai Mobis) and Moon Jung-hyun (Suwon KT) in the rookie of the year race.

When asked by the press if there was anything different from round to round, Yoo said, “I wasn’t playing well before the All-Star break. There were a lot of passive parts. In the second half, I knew I had to be more aggressive and create my own. With so many good players on the team, there were a lot of derivative offensive opportunities.” Hearing this, Yang Hong-seok laughed and said, “(Yoo) Sang-gi is laying the groundwork for the Rookie of the Year award. He’s ready for the award. I can imagine him wearing a tie at the award ceremony and receiving the award.”

What are the advantages of the organic phase that the senior sees? Yang Hong-seok said, “There is a relaxation that rookies don’t have. He plays steady. Other rookies show explosiveness and then go quiet, but Yoo Yoo-sang is steady and does a good job on defense. He should play more than 20 minutes.”

Yoo also enjoys the rookie competition with his peers. “I try to focus on the game every minute,” he said. “Actually, in the last cup tournament with Busan KCC, I conceded a lot of goals to Heo Woong. It was one of those games that hit you in the head. I was aware of the seriousness of my defense and tried with desperation, so I think I was lucky to get a block. Defense is a skill, but it also requires willpower. I tried to do it with determination, and I think I did a good job.”

Meanwhile, Yoo joked about the final free throw situation, saying, “I remembered that Lee Kwan-hee missed it,” and then added, “My teammates told me, ‘You’ll make it,’ so I threw it with confidence. I threw it up with confidence,” he laughed.

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