“Sometimes I wonder what I would be like if I hadn’t been injured. But it made me more mature, it made me stronger. So I’m not going to use my injury as an excuse to complain.”
Lee Hyun-jung, 23, who plays for the Illiwarra Hawks of the Australian professional basketball league NBL, took the opportunity to elaborate on his upcoming trip to Australia a day before his departure.바카라사이트
“I’m excited to be the first Korean player to play in the Australian league,” he said at a press conference at Hilton Garden Inn Seoul Gangnam in Seocho-gu, Seoul, on Feb. 2. “The NBL is very competitive, so I’m looking forward to the challenges and games.” Lee signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with the Illiwarra Hawks, but he said he could leave at any time if an offer from the NBA came his way. “When we met in Australia, they told me they would develop me into an NBA player, so that’s why I chose them,” he said. “The NBL is very physical, tough on offense and defense,” he said, “and the spacing can be tighter than in the NBA. I think there are a lot of areas where I need to improve, so that’s why I chose it.”
The NBL was a detour for Lee to get to the NBA. Lee is a graduate of the prestigious Davidson College. One of the NBA’s top stars, Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors), attended the school. After averaging 15.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 38.1 percent shooting from three-point range while playing 32.1 minutes per game in the 2021-22 season, Hyunjoong declared for the NBA Draft last year but had to sit out due to a foot injury just before the draft.
After recovering from the injury this year, Lee played for the Santa Cruz Warriors, a G League team affiliated with Golden State, and also played in the Summer League with the Philadelphia 76ers, but unfortunately, he did not receive an NBA call-up.
Lee Hyun-jung poses for a photo with Lee Dae-sung (left) before heading to the Japanese league. Courtesy of A2G
“I could have stayed in the G League, or I could have chosen another league,” says Lee, who emphasizes that the NBA is still his ultimate goal, “but lately, there are a lot of players from the NBL going to the NBA. NBA scouts also watch a lot. I decided to play in the NBL because I thought it would be more visible to scouts than playing in the G League.” “I’m looking forward to playing with four of my high school friends in the Illiwarra Hawks,” said Lee, who spent his high school years in Australia. “The coach is also familiar with my academy coach in Australia, so he knows what type of player I am.”
“When I first entered the G League, it was six or seven months after my injury, and I wasn’t 100 percent,” he said. “I worked hard to rehabilitate in the Summer League. I did a lot of rehabilitation in the Summer League, and I prepared a lot,” he recalled. “In the Summer League, I had less playing time, but (Lee) Sung-hyung said, ‘There are many players who do well in a good environment, but there are not many players who are prepared when they are mentally tough. This is where the B, A, and S players come in,'” he said. I always worked hard because I wanted to show that I was ready even if I was playing for a short time.” “If you say that you didn’t shine because the (playing) environment wasn’t good, that’s an excuse,” he said, adding, “In the Summer League, players can be a little selfish, and catch-and-shooters like me might not get many opportunities, but if you blame them, you’ll get pushed back. I tried to make the most of my strengths in that situation and continue to learn and fill in the gaps.”
Lee also said he learned a lot from playing in the G League and the Summer League. “I’m known as a three-point shooter, but I’m still lacking in sophistication,” he said, adding, “I don’t feel like I’m behind in terms of physicality, but my defense and slow feet are being pointed out as weaknesses, and I’m well aware of that, so I’m trying to improve.” “I realized how important it is to communicate during the game. It’s very difficult to talk in tough situations, but if you look at the NBA, P.J. Tucker or Draymond Green talk a lot on the court and save the whole team. I realized that I need to be a voice leader as well.”
Lee Hyun-jung. Courtesy of the KBL
Lee also described meeting his idol, Curry, in college. “I ran into Curry once when we played a scrimmage at Golden State, and it was like a dream,” he said. “He greeted me first because I was stumbling at the time. He knew I had a foot injury. He told me that the G League is hard and tough, but to give it a shot.”
He had a chance to compete in the Asian Games, which would have solved his military problem, but it didn’t happen because he chose the NBL. “I know how honored I am to represent my country. I would love to play if I had the chance,” he said, “but the Asian Games and NBL schedule overlap a bit. The NBL is also a valuable opportunity, so I decided to focus on the NBL for now.”
Lee also expressed his desire to play in the KBL, though he doesn’t know when. “Right now, I’m focusing on challenging myself as much as possible in the U.S., so I’m not thinking about the future,” he said, “but as a Korean, of course I have expectations of playing in a domestic league. As my career progresses, I’d like to play if I have the opportunity, but for now, I’m prioritizing overseas challenges.”
Lee Hyun-jung added, “The challenges are long and sometimes exhausting. People’s expectations are sometimes a burden,” he said, “but I’m trying to turn that expectation into a stimulus. I don’t care about the concerns and criticisms I hear around me. It’s a challenge I love,” he said, his eyes shining.