After finishing at the bottom of the table again last season, Bucheon Hana OneQ has started to turn things around early.

The team began training in mid-April, and after four weeks of fitness and conditioning checks, the team set up a base camp at the Taebaek O2 Resort for two weeks from 15 to 27 May.

During the team’s holiday following the end of the 2022-23 season, the front office and coaching staff used the time to reinforce their strengths and sort out some of their mistakes, and the results have been nothing short of transformative. Kim Ji-young and Kim Ye-jin departed for Incheon Shinhan Bank and Cheongju KB Stars, respectively. Lee Chae-eun also moved to KB Stars. Lee Jung-hyun and Choi Min-joo chose to retire.

Kim Jong-un’s arrival and the addition of Uhm Seo-i and Choi Ji-seon메이저놀이터

Kim Jong-un, Choi Ji-seon, and Uhm Seo-i joined the roster. Kim made her debut with Hana OneQ and returned to her family after spending the last six years with Woori Bank. Uhm Seo-i is a compensation player for Kim Ye-jin, and Choi Ji-seon switched to the Hana One Q uniform from KB Stars in a trade with Lee Chae-eun. Kim Ji-young also left the team as a compensation player for Kim Jong-un.

Kim was recruited with the expectation of playing a role as a centre and court leader. He was brought in with the expectation that his experience with Hana One Q and his experience as a top player in the league would complement the ‘experience’ that is considered to be Hana One Q’s weakness.

“I don’t expect much from him. I don’t want to put pressure on them. I just think that I will pass on my long WKBL experience to the younger players while living with them. I think they will take care of themselves.”

As mentioned above, Kim made his debut with Hana WonQ and was considered one of the best players in the league. At 37 years of age in Korea, Kim was clearly facing an age curve, but he proved in last season’s championship that he had “one or two more years left in him,” and Hana OneQ, in need of a focal point and court leader, eagerly snapped him up.

It is said that not only the team, but also the coach himself wooed Kim through several meetings.

This free agency period was used to strengthen the inside, which was a weakness, and to clear up the guard position. While Kim’s absence is obvious, the team plans to minimise it by bringing in a forward full of potential in Choi Ji-seon.

“I actually thought about it a little bit more, but it was difficult in reality,” Kim said. Now that the roster is organised, we will fill in the gaps and build up our strength until the season,” said Kim.

What role does Kim play and how should teams utilise him?

Kim is the oldest player in the league. Hana OneQ is the youngest of the six teams in the WKBL. As mentioned above, this is the biggest reason why Hana Wonq made a big push to sign Kim. There’s definitely some affection there, as he made his debut with Hana One Q. Kim should bring a winning mentality to the team and fill in some of the experience the squad lacks.

His physical condition is a bit of a concern. With a nagging knee injury, Kim’s playing time is limited. He needs to shake off the pressure and refrain from being too competitive. It’s also essential that the bench is able to control his playing time. If Kim Jong-un, who was recruited with the keyword of improving his physical condition, struggles to play due to injuries, Hana OneQ could be disappointed with their choice.

Newcomer Uhm Seo-i will need to contribute from all over the inside, while Choi Ji-seon will also need to contribute with his defence and outside shooting.

Uhm Seo-i has received a lot of attention as a backup, but she hasn’t been as good as expected. The same goes for Choi Ji-seon. Uhm Seo-i joined BNK before moving to KB Stars and now Hana OneQ. Choi Ji-seon was given another chance when she moved from Shinhan Bank to KB Stars and then to Hana OneQ.

The growth and adaptation of these two players is essential for Hana OneQ and Kim, who signed them with the keyword of securing backups.

Things that need to change

During my two days in Taebaek, I was able to have many conversations with Kim. No, I had to. For a team that hasn’t been out of the bottom half of the table for years, there are a lot of things that need to change. Kim conveyed his thoughts and asked for an outside perspective.

Hana OneQ had two major weaknesses in the previous season. They were an objective line-up disadvantage and concentration in close games. Hana One Q’s core, Shin Ji-hyun and Yang In-young, are clearly weaker than other teams’ cores. The backups also cannot be said to have an advantage over other teams. As a result, their ability to go beyond the match is weak.

To perform at a certain level, player composition is essential. Hana OneQ has virtually no line-up to break through. This is why they didn’t receive much criticism from the outside world last season, even though they lost a lot of games. It’s hard for them to outperform other teams in terms of player composition.

Shin Ji-hyun and Yang In-young were the core, Kim Ji-young, Kim Ye-jin, Kim Mi-yeon, Kim Anna, and Lee Ha-eun were the main players, and Jung Yerim, Park So-hee, Park Jin-young, and Ko Seo-yeon were the gods.

For the record, Shin Ji-hyun and Yang In-young played some role, but they were not as good as the other team’s one-two punch. Kim Ji-young and Kim Ye-jin showed their presence in defence, but there were clear limitations in attack. The growth of Jeong Yerim in the new line-up, Park So-hee’s distribution and Ko Seo-yeon’s boldness stood out, but unfortunately, Park Jin-young had to leave the line-up early due to injury.

“One of my main tasks after taking over was to improve the skills of the younger players,” said Kim. I spent a lot of time with them to the point where they were misunderstood by the existing players. This off-season will be no different. Only when these players improve will we be able to take our performance to the next level.”

General secretary Kim Ki-rim has also been working with Kim on a long-term project to improve the team’s performance, setting in motion a plan to build a squad with a long view. “It’s not necessarily about winning. We just need to create a team culture that suits Hana OneQ,” says Kim, who is working on changing the team culture in the big picture.

Behind the scenes, Hana WonQ is also working to overcome a pervasive sense of defeat.

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