The South Korean basketball league [KBL] is a relatively new league, only thirteen years in existence, that unashamedly focuses on Korean national players. Part of that means heavily restricting the amount of imports that so heavily permeate all the other leagues around the world. Teams are allowed only two imports, and unlike in some other countries, dual citizenship is very hard to come by.
It also has some quirky rules. Each team is allowed two foreign players, but in the second and third quarter of all games, only one import is allowed to play at any one time. Additionally, 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. A combination of that, and the 54-game schedules that teams play, make the KBL highly intriguing to the hardened nerds amongst us.
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 Korea doesn’t produce much talented size of their own. (Ha Seung-Jin excepted.) The criteria for entry in the draft, though, is pretty weird. Players pay a $100 fee to be entered into the pre-draft list camp, and that list of players is culled down to a manageable amount of invitees by the KBL. The surviving list then go through one more cull, and the surviving few proceed (if they still want to) to the KBL pre-draft camp, which takes place in Las Vegas. And from there, the draft choices are made.
Here’s the full list of the 224 players who were invited.
However, there are strict regulations on who is and isn’t draft eligible. Even though the 6’8 rule is long since abolished, there remain some strangely Draconian ones. (Or rather, there were in 2009; I can’t find a list of the 2010 regulations. I assume they are much the same, though.) This list of regulations includes two rather strange ones:
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
Rule three seems to no longer be in force, or is at least now slightly modified. For example, in direct contravention of the rule, Antywane Robinson has spent the last two years playing in France, as has David Noel. Nevertheless, the non-NBA rule seems to be in force; none of the ex-NBA players listed here have played a game in it recently (training camp contracts are exempt).
But this doesn’t mean that the list is lacking in talent. It most certainly is not. There are many ex-NBA players and draft picks here – Lee Nailon, Michael Sweetney, new-found three-point specialist Jared Reiner, Amal McCaskill, Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje, Dan McClintock, Torraye Braggs, Denham Brown, Chris Taft, Samaki Walker, Jabari Smith, Ansu Sesay, Noel Felix, Derrick Byars, Hiram Fuller, his Libyan national team team-mate Randy Holcomb, Herbert Hill, Ryan Humphrey, David Noel and Dan Langhi.
There are also a great many more players who have signed training camp contracts at various times; Scott Merritt, Larry Owens, Larry Turner, Jeff Varem, Jamar Smith (the Maryland one), Charles Rhodes, Diamon Simpson, Joe Shipp, Romel Beck, Rod Benson, Keith Brumbaugh, Marcus Campbell, Bennet Davis, Nigel Dixon, Anwar Ferguson, Michael Fey, Otis George, Marcus Hubbard, Kevin Lyde, Adam Parada, Antonio Meeking, Antywane Robinson and Darius Rice to name but twenty three.
And then there are also those who are college seniors, sceptical of their draft chances. Omar Samhan, Deon Thompson, Arinze Onuaku, Michael Roll, Deshawn Sims, Jamal Boykin, Bryan Davis, Gavin Edwards, Rodney Green, Gerald Lee, Landry Fields, Jeff Foote, A.J. Ogilvy, Tasmin Mitchell and Raymar Morgan.
Failing that, there’s always Czech Republic rebounding champ Tremaine Ford.
It’s not a coincidence that most of those players are big men. In South Korea, the imports are almost always big men. This was evident in last year’s draft, where big guys ruled the day. The overwhelming majority of the players in this list will not play in the KBL – there are only 20 import spots, and most of these players will land better gigs than this. In fact, some are already signing elsewhere; as reported in this post, Marcus Campbell and David Noel have signed in France for next season.
It is, however, a hugely entertaining list. Not only because it features so many names of marginal players that you’ve heard of – if you don’t understand why this is fun, then you’re on the wrong website – but also because it’s an insight into various player’s careers. For example, Otis George and Charles Rhodes did not play professionally last season. Were they injured? Were they retired? Were they dead? And were they coming back at all? Yes they were. We’ll know that for sure when they attended the KBL pre-draft camp in Las Vegas next month. They and 200 others like them.