Taebaek starts physical training "Coach, let's put each other down a little bit and meet in the middle!"

Choi Joon-yong leaves SK, where he played for seven years, to join KCC after his professional basketball debut.

Choi Jun-yong (29-KCC) is considered a rare "international player" among Korean basketball players. Even when he's in a slump in the domestic league, he flies around as long as he's wearing the Taegeuk mark. His personality is also bubbly.

So when Choi Jun-yong, who had been playing exclusively for SK since his professional debut in 2016, signed with KCC as an off-season free agent (FA), there was a lot of talk. KCC head coach Jeon Chang-jin (60) leads the team with an indigenous style among indigenous people.

However, there are times when 'polar opposites' can work. We visited the KCC gymnasium in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, on the 3rd of last month to see how the two fit together.

Choi Jun-yong (left) and coach Jeon Chang-jin at the press conference to join KCC.

"When we met before signing, he said, 'I smoked a lot because of you, you're a bad lucky guy.' I didn't like him either. I thought he was a 'brat' and a 'tiger coach,' but when I saw him up close, I realized there was a misunderstanding," Choi said.

"When I saw him outside, he was always irritated and saying things to the players, so I wondered why, but when I saw him inside, he had the same expression when he was eating. He usually talks about 'restaurants' a lot, but his face is full of anger even then. I want to change his image as a coach who gets along well with the players, not a scary coach. I hope he has many days to smile," he added.

"I worry about everything outside, but I decided to let go a lot. (Choi Jun-yong) definitely has the ability to play basketball," the former coach smiled. One of the things Jeon promised Choi that he could "let go of" was a "road walk," a sprint through the mountains in Taebaek, Gangwon Province. At Choi's signing press conference on May 22, Jeon spoke up and said, "I can get rid of the road walk."

Choi Joon-yong, who was criticized for being 'opposites', and KCC coach Jeon Chang-jin.

Choi Jun-yong said, "He's used to his life, basketball, and the things he used to do. He has a bit of a compulsion to think that running until you're out of breath is physical training. It's obvious that you need to train, but nowhere else does it like in Korea," he said.

"If roadwork really helps, LeBron James (39-LA Lakers) should come to Taebaek to train. After all, we're training to be good at basketball, but our workouts are too confined. Shouldn't we look at the future of Korean basketball?" he added.

"It's the player's job to follow the direction the coach wants to go, and the coach is somewhat open. I'm not saying I'm going to do it my way, but I want to show the players how they play nowadays and when they feel happy. I hope we can put each other down a little bit and meet in the middle."

Directors Jeon Chang-jin (left) and Choi Jun-yong in an affectionate pose.

KCC began training in Taebaek on the 24th of last month. The road work has been transformed into an "interval" style of walking and running instead of running continuously as before.

"Before I came to Taebaek, I had a lot of conversations with the coach, and he said, 'I trust you 100 percent and will do what you say, so I want you to do the same,'" Choi said on March 27, the fourth day of training. "But when I came to training, it didn't change. I was tricked. I'm going to go run in the mountains again in the afternoon.

In response to his former coach's "surprise attack," Choi has been on the "defense" by walking among the less fit players during roadwork drills. Two weeks into his recovery from a heel injury, there's no reason why Choi shouldn't be able to run on hills. His former coach, who says, "I never said I would eliminate road work," only pretends not to know. Choi says he hasn't given up on the conversation.

"We'll try a little bit more, and if it doesn't work, we'll give up and go our separate ways."

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