A few years ago, the KBL had a rule that barred any players standing 6'8 and above. What the intended purpose of that was, I don't know, but presumably they quickly figured out how damaging that rule was to their basketball product, because they have now done away with it. Now, tall foreign dudes are allowed. And they're kind of prevalent.
Every summer, the KBL holds a draft of foreign players who want to play in their league that year. The players that are drafted are mostly tall guys, as apparently Korea doesn't produce much talented size of their own. (Ha Seung-Jin excepted, of course.) The criteria for entry in the draft, though, is pretty weird. The following is looted without permission from the Korean Basketball League website:
[The] Korean Basketball League (KBL) Pre-Draft Tryout Camp for Foreign Players will be held from July 22nd (Wed) to 24th (Fri), 2009 at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, NV, U.S.A.
The players who are interested in playing in Korea for the 2009~2010 season, which will start from the middle of October 2009 to the end of April 2010, and meet the qualifications below are asked to fill out the application form and send via a fax or by e-mail the required documents to KBL office by May 22nd, 2009.
1. Must have at least a high school diploma
2. Must be at least 18 years of age
3. Have not had a contract with teams in Europe Division I (Spain, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Israel, France, Russia, Greece) Club for the most recent consecutive two (2) years
4. Have not had a contract with teams in NBA for the most recent consecutive three (3) years
B: Required Documents
1. KBL Tryout Application Form (must be signed by a player)
2. Resume (with a recent photo)
3. Personal data (stats must be official game stats)
4. A copy of university / college / high school diploma
5. Letter of Clearance from previous team (optional)
6. Letter of Recommendation (optional)
7. Character Reference from 3 non-family members (optional)
By ruling out anyone to have played in any of the world's significant leagues in the past two or three years, the KBL essentially guarantees itself a lineup of nothing but castoffs, of has-beens and never-weres who can't hack it on the big stage, but who still want the dosh that comes with being halfway decent. This leaves the KBL running with the very real prospect of overpaying mediocre players, and missing out on any true talent.
(It's also nice to know that character references are optional.)
It kind of works, though. 730 players applied for the pre-draft camp, of which 212 were invited. That 212 was later reduced down to a list of 143, and I'll reproduce that list in an awkwardly small font for you now.
Robert (T.J) Cummings
Robert (Chris) Daniels
It's a great list for scrubs. On it are recent NBA second round draft picks Robert Dozier and Ahmad Nivins, who applied before they knew they were going to be drafted this summer, as well some undrafted favourites of my own such as Cedric Jackson, Tyrell Biggs, Gary Wilkinson and Joe Krabbenhoft. (Inspired stuff to hold the camp in Vegas, by the way. Really drives up the attendance.)
Players from the list to have spent even a minute on an NBA roster in the past include Chris Alexander, Demetrius Alexander, Mario Bennett, Damone Brown (in his first stint post-drug bust), T.J. Cummings (giggidy), Nigel Dixon, Desmond Ferguson, Alton Ford, Herbert Hill, Ryan Humphrey, Sean Lampley, Dan Langhi, Art Long, Bryant sexpest Matthews, Amal McCaskill, Brent Petway, Darius Rice, Soumalia Samake, Frans Steyn, Larry Turner, Corey Underwood and Samaki Walker. The D-League turnout isn't bad either, with players like Greg Stiemsma, Jasper Johnson and Longar Longar trying to find Eastern pastures new.
There's also a welcome signing of former West Virginia star and middle school teacher Kevin Pittsnogle, whose agent clearly thought his client was worth the $100 bucks just to get his name in such esteemed company. And also on the list is a man named Chris Hunter. Whether it's THE Chris Hunter, the one who is currently under contract to the New York Knicks, is not explicitly clear. But since I know of no other Chris Hunter in the world of professional basketball, I'm going to have to assume that it is.
(Note: It's not THE Anthony Johnson, obviously, nor is it THE Kevin Martin.)
That was the pre-draft camp list. It's quite the who's-who of nobodies. All the veterans of the Asian tour, such as Dixon and Langhi, are still going strong, and it's a thrill to see it if you're easily pleased. We all like our Amal McCaskill news, after all.
They've since held the draft. Like the camp, it was held in Las Vegas, despite Las Vegas being several thousand miles away from South Korea. (I still support this decision.) Like the NBA draft, it's full of all the pomp and ceremony that should accompany such an event. Unlike the NBA draft, though, it has an interesting caveat - after a player is selected, they have 5 minutes to sign a contract with the team, and 5 minutes only. If they don't get it done, then that's it; they're out. This frankly brilliant rule should be enforced in the NBA, and would be if I had any say in it. Just saying.
(By the way, due to the sketchy nature of the South Korean Won - the name of their currency - teams have a salary cap of 1.8 billion. That's just a pretty number to say. Everyone's a millionaire.)
The draft went as follows -
1st - Daegu Orions - Herbert Hill
2nd - Busan KT Magic Wings - Greg Stiemsma
3rd - Seoul SK Knights - Samaki Walker
4th - Anyang KT&G Kites - Nigel Dixon
5th - Incheon ET Land Black Slamer - Chris Daniels
6th - Changwon LG Sakers - Chris Alexander
7th - Wongju Dongbu Promy - Marquin Chandler
Note: Mobis Phoebus, KCC Egis and Samsung Tigers forfeited their first round picks, instead re-signing their foreign players from last year; namely, Bryant Dunston, Micah Brand and Terrence Leather (giggidy).
11th - Wongju Dongbu Promy - Gary Wilkinson
12th - Changwon LG Sakers - Craig Bradshaw
13th - Incheon ET Land Black Slamer - Amal McCaskill
14th - Anyang NT&G Kites - Rashad Bell
15th - Seoul SK Knights - Joe Dabbert
16th - Busan KT Magic Wings - Jasper Johnson
17th - Daegu Orions - Kevin Martin
18th - Ulsan Mobis Phoebus - Abdullahi Kuso
19th - Jeonju KCC Egis - Mack Tuck
20th - Seoul Samsung Thunders - Bryant Matthews
It may still seem pretty weird that so many people battle for so few spots. KBL teams are only allowed to field 2 foreign players on their roster, and, as of next year, they're only going to be allowed to have one on the court at any given moment. Furthermore, there's only ten teams, which leads the whole non-Korean world battling for all of 20 roster spots. And when 730 people are wanting those 20 spots, the odds aren't good.
But there are reasons why it's the case. Firstly, the KBL play a 54 game schedule. Not many leagues play more than that (for those unfamiliar with basketball outside of the USA, the NBA's 82 game schedule is a glaring anomaly, and farrrrrrrr from the norm), and players like to play in games. Thus, it's attractive to them to play in a league that features a large amount of games, even if they have to tolerate two-a-days on all off-days and inflammatory head coaches willing to chew the ass of anyone too stupid to hide. (Giggidy.)
But mainly, the motivations are financial. The following is also looted, without permission, from the KBL website;
The terms of the players contract is from September 1st, 2009 to March 31st, 2010(7 months contract). Each player will receive the net amount of US $25,000 per month during the regular season. Players will additionally receive a net winning bonus of US $300 for every win.
2. In the playoffs, players will be compensated for his extended services on a pro rata basis with the monthly payment of the net amount of US$25,000. The players will additionally get paid a playoffs incentive bonus.
3. The clubs shall provide a dormitory room, meals during the season, and a round trip of airfare (business class)
4. A player once can invite one of his relatives during the season. The clubs shall provide a round trip of air fare and lodging for up to 7-Days.
For $25,000 a month, I'd play wherever the hell you wanted me to.