SK Ahn Young-jun, the starring supporting cast of Knights Templar

When you think of the Seoul SK Knights, who is the first player that comes to mind? Opinions will vary, but many would say the ‘MVP duo’ of regular season MVP Kim Sun-hyung (34‧187cm) and Most Valuable Foreign Player Jamil Warney (29‧199cm). There’s a reason they’ve only played for SK in their KBL careers and have proven both their skills and popularity.

Then there’s Choi Jun-yong (29‧200.2cm), who is now playing elsewhere but made the biggest impact when they won the title. Kim Sun-hyung may not be in the same league, but depending on how newcomer Oh Se-geun (36‧199.8cm) performs over the next few years, his name could also be etched in SK history.

In the midst of all this, there’s one player who shouldn’t be left out of the roster: ‘Young-mi’ Ahn Young-joon (28‧194.1cm), who will be returning from military service next season. He’s not a flashy player, but he’s good at the grunt work of defence and hustle, and has a history of being the backbone of the Knight Corps in attack. He may not be an ace or a charge leader, but he is a valuable piece of a strong team.

There’s a type of player that may seem common at first glance, but is rare. The type of player who focuses on the grunt work of defence while providing supportive fire with ball-less movement on offence is favoured by all leaders and teammates. Historically, however, there have not been many of these types of players with starter-level skills. They are either bench players with a similar style of play but a downgrade overall, or they specialise in one aspect of the game, either offence or defence.먹튀검증

In a way, they are rare. It’s not easy for a player with that much talent and ability to sacrifice for the team and have the mentality to play a supporting role. This is especially true nowadays, when many players are more proud than they should be and want to be the centre of attention. Yang Kyung-min, who was called the epitome of a 3&D player in his DB heyday, Choo Seung-gyun, a strong man who could do everything from defending, shooting, and passing, and Kang Byung-hyun, who was a blue walker but had a strong star quality, are supporting roles that are still talked about to this day.

In an atmosphere where there are so many outstanding forwards such as Song Kyo-chang, Choi Jun-yong, Yang Hong-seok, and Moon Sung-gon, Ahn Young-joon tends to be buried somewhat. While these players are the mainstays of the team and have been in the spotlight since early on, Ahn has been relatively unnoticed in the star-studded SK squad. He’s reminiscent of Choo Seung-gyun in his IZOCHU days.

Ahn has a style of play that many coaches would love. He has good size for his position, with a solid weight and a long wingspan of 202cm, and he has good athleticism, including speed and power. His man-to-man defence and high rebounding participation are significant strengths in a team with so many offensive options. Next season, SK will need a player like Ahn to contribute with his defence, hustle, rebounding and activity.

This season, SK’s main offensive routes have been through a variety of stone options from Kim Sun-hyung and Warney. Known for their floaters, the two players shake up the defence from all sides and create secondary scoring opportunities. Choi is a prime example. He was criticised for being a one-dimensional player, but he played well as a secondary striker, scoring goals just by finding empty spaces and receiving them.

Next season, he will be joined by Kim Sun-hyung, Warnie, and Oh Se-geun. We need a player to fill that role, and Ahn Young-joon’s ability to move without the ball makes him the perfect fit. While Choi Boo-Kyung’s receiving options are limited to the area around the goal, Ahn is an all-rounder who can play inside or outside the box. He is mobile enough to be a good finisher and trailer on the inside, and has an excellent outside shot from a kick-out pass.

He’s a great partner for the Aces, as he can work diligently in and out of the paint and take the pressure off the Aces in a variety of ways. Ahn isn’t just a receiver, though. He’s also a team-orientated player, so he has an even mix of two-man games, step-backs, pull-up jumpers, and mid-range ability.

He’s basically a distributor, but he can also step up and spearhead an offence when needed. While he’s impeccable at the 3, some say that Choi’s absence could be felt at the 2. This is because, although he is a very balanced player, he is unproven in terms of secondary reading and passing. He also lacks experience in those plays.

However, this year, SK’s passing play worked well enough without Choi, and the main players such as Kim Sun-hyung and Oh Se-geun are very seasoned and experienced veterans. Even if Koo Tae-yeo is not involved in the secondary leading role, the experienced Oh Se-geun can fill in the gaps. The recent trend in basketball is that the front line is no longer responsible for leading the team as it was in the past. It can be done from the back line or shared by all players.

Furthermore, Ahn Young-joon has been praised for his BQ since his rookie year, so he can play a solid linker role. In some ways, the departure of Choi Jun-yong could be an opportunity for Ahn. After all, he has a lot of work to do, so he needs to take on more roles and “grow into a flounder, not just a snapper”. It will be interesting to see if Ahn Young-joon, a former housekeeper, can return with a more seasoned look and become the mainstay of the SK Knights.