SK head coach Jeon Hee-cheol has been using an unusual lineup since the start of the regular season on March 3. Choi Won-hyuk and Oh Jae-hyun are starting. In addition, Choi Boo-kyung also started. With Heo Il-young’s injury, the team has started six games with an unusual lineup.
Choi Won-hyuk and Oh Jae-won are strong defenders. Offense, on the other hand, is their weakness. They are the opponent’s sagging targets, or in other words, the players that the defense abandons. It’s a trick they’ve pulled off in the midst of a killer schedule that includes the East Asian Super League (EASL) and runs through mid-January.
The unusual lineup worked. They went 5-1 in six games. Despite the 82-91 loss to DB, coach Jeon Hee-cheol said, “Our defense was good, but our opponent was in too good of shape.”
Out of the six games SK played with the unconventional lineup, the team took a first-quarter lead in five of them, except for the DB game. The power of defense. “Choi Won-hyuk, Oh Jae-hyun, and Choi Buk-kyung have been playing as starters,” said coach Jeon Hee-chul. Our defense has improved. We don’t lose the battle of strength at the start,” he emphasized.
In addition, the team has been converting chances generated by Jamil Warney into three points. Choi Won-hyuk and Oh Jae-hyun’s shooting percentages are too high for opponents to simply sag on Warney’s defense. Coach Jeon Hee-chul said, “We can’t call them mannequins anymore.”
Choi Won-hyuk has a 41.7% three-point shooting percentage. Oh Jae-hyun is also shooting 35.8%.
Coach Jeon Hee-chul said, “They say they don’t shoot, but I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but they have the best success rate in the team. I think he shoots better in the first quarter because there’s no pressure. When the opponent’s defense tries to catch Warney, we get open shots. That’s why we haven’t lost any games in recent starts,” he said. “When the offense doesn’t work, Kim Sun-hyung goes out, and when we need to create space, Oh Se-geun goes out.”
The plan is to stick with the unusual lineup until the All-Star break. The plan is to keep veterans Kim Sun-hyung and Oh Se-geun healthy to compete in the fifth and sixth rounds and the playoffs.
“We have a tough schedule until mid-January,” said Jeon Hee-chul. I don’t like to change things that are working well,” said Jeon. “If our first-quarter offense drops, we’ll change it, but right now our first-quarter offense is good. Right now, I’m giving Kim Sun-hyung and Oh Se-geun about 20 to 25 minutes of playing time, and that’s how I’m going to distribute the minutes. We need Choi Won-hyuk, Oh Jae-hyun, and Choi Buk-kyung to play well to keep up with the tight schedule.”
“In the end, the core has to do it. Kim Sun-hyung and Oh Se-geun need to play more than 25 minutes and hold the center. It doesn’t have to be now. It’s good if it’s perfect in the fifth or sixth round. For now, I think we’re going to keep going in the direction we’re going.”
Another effect is the growth of Choi Won-hyuk and Oh Jae-hyun. SK is one of the favorites to win the title. They have a strong core of Kim Sun-hyung, Oh Se-geun, Heo Il-young, and Ahn Young-joon, in addition to top foreign player Wonie, but they will need their sixth man to perform at the highest level.
“I think Choi Won-hyuk and Oh Jae-hyun have learned how to solve the game by playing a lot,” said coach Jeon Hee-chul, “It’s actually an unusual lineup. It is a lineup that is used only once in the middle of the season. We lost some things, but we also gained a lot. If the sixth man grows, it will be good in the fifth and sixth rounds and the playoffs. I think Choi Won-hyuk and Oh Jae-hyun in particular have grown a lot.”
Oh Jae-hyun also said, “It was a learning process. At first, I didn’t understand, but I’m gradually understanding what timing they’re talking about.” “SK is called an old man, but the members of the first and third quarters are not old at all. We’re building energy levels. They’re gaining confidence, and it’s coming together. There are no fitness issues. We’re having more fun running around.”