He got game in his genes: South Korea's Heo Hoon harbours NBA and Olympic dreams  

First pick in the KBL Draft two years ago, 24-year-old Heo Hoon is following in his Olympian father's footsteps.

By Ken Browne ·

South Korea's rising basketball star Heo Hoon dreams of the NBA and playing at the Olympics - just like his old man.

Can basketball genes and dreams take him all the way to the big time?

Hoon is the youngest player on South Korea's FIBA World Cup 2019 roster and listens to his father's advice.

Luckily, dad knows what he's talking about.

Hur Jae played in three Olympics, was part of the team that finished 9th at Seoul 1988, and gave the athletes' oath at his home Games Opening Ceremony.

Senior also has seven championship medals from his time with Kia Motors during the amateur era, and was finals MVP in 97/98 after basketball went pro - the only time the MVP has ever gone to a player on the losing team.

Pops also still owns the record for most points ever scored by one player in one game at a World Cup - he scored 62 points against Egypt in 1990.

And he was even better at the 1994 Worlds, averaging 19.4 points, 4.5 assists and 3.9 rebounds - numbers which reportedly made him a scouting target for the NBA’s Vancouver (now Memphis) Grizzlies.

But now it's junior's time to shine, and with highlights like this impossible shot against China that made the Top 5 plays (Number 2) of the World Cup 2019 Asian qualifiers, it's exciting times for the Heo Hoon, and for South Korean basketball.

The future of South Korean basketball?

Heo is just 24-years-old and the only player on the roster born in 1995. As the youngest on the team, it looks like he'll be a fixture in the South Korean side for some time to come.

He impressed at the William Jones Cup 2019 in Taipei, where Heo averaged an impressive 11.0 points, 4.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game.

Head coach Kim SangShik was clearly impressed, and now Hoon will get his first taste of World Cup action in China.

At just 181cm (5'11") Hoon is a busy point guard with quick hands, an eye for a steal, good middle-to-long range shooting and a natural sense of space and timing - when to drive to the board, pass or shoot.

He has some competition at guard with Lee Jung Hyun, who averaged 13.2 points & 4.5 assists in all 12 Asian qualifying games, and more experienced back-courters Kim SunHyung, Lee DaeSung and Park ChanHee.

SunHyung and ChanHee saw World Cup action in Spain 2014 but despite competing for places with more experienced teammates, Heo knows that it's all part of the process of becoming a better player.

"It is not always an easy time being on the national team, but this has tested my heart helped me learn a lot from my brothers on the team," he said to fiba.basketball.

"It means a lot to me to finally be on the big stage of the World Cup. I would like to show my talents and play my role to the best of my skills."


The system that the coach plays seems to fit well with Hoon's game and everything he's learned so far too:

"I am lucky that the motion offense that coach Sang-Shik pursues is actually familiar to me," he said, continuing:

"During my playing years at Yonsei University we used that system for three years, and I was able to make good use of my previous experience."

With a wise head on young shoulders, South Korea's young star knows that game time at the top level is key to his development.

"Competition is indispensable in the national team," Hoon mused.

"It's what I need. I've had experience working with high level players in the youth team, but this time we will all play against very strong opponents like Russia, Argentina and Nigeria. I see this as an opportunity to try and push our limits. It will not be easy, but we will take advantage of our opportunities."

Heo Hoon to make dad proud and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics?

His father was an Olympian, and now he has a chance to make the Tokyo 2020 Games too.

With a Hachimura-led Japan already qualified as hosts, South Korea are playing a tournament within a tournament for that one Olympic automatic qualifier spot going to the top Asian finisher in China.

The World Cup hosts and the Philippines also have their eye on that golden ticket, but South Korea showed in qualifying why they're very much in contention.

They went 10-2 and have a hyper offense that posted 88.5 PPG (2nd in Asia) and 23.3 APG (1st) through qualifiers.

There's no doubt who the leader is, USA-born Ra GunA averaged 26.7 points per game & 12.5 rebounds on 60% shooting.

Naturalised Gun-ah, also known as Ricardo Ratliffe, posted the highest player efficiency rating in all of the Asian Qualifiers with 34.0.

If the Koreans can't secure their spot for Tokyo at the FIBA World Cup there are more pre-Olympic tournaments that could still see Heo Hoon measure up to the old man.

Keep an eye on him, the future of South Korean basketball is in his hands.