BANGKOK, Thailand – If there is one individual player who has caught the FIBA Under-19 World Cup by storm, it is Park Ji Hyun of the Republic of Korea.
The 6’1” Park is leading the tournament in scoring at 17.4 points per game and is also grabbing six rebounds. Her high of 26 points came against the highly-favorited United States, of all teams, a group stage loss that saw her connect 11-of-11 from the free throw line. She was limited to seven against Spain in the knockout Round of 16.
Saturday, she established another stellar performance with a double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds in a nail-biting 51-49 comeback win over Colombia in classification play.
“With my teammates, we prepared well and studied well,” Park told High Post Hoops through a translator. “We’re not one of the tallest teams, but we achieve original coaching. Originally, I played center, but I started shooting well.”
Park is no stranger to international competition. As a 17-year-old, she scored 15 points per game in the previous Under-19 World Cup in Italy two years ago. At the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, Park was part of the unified North-and-South Korean team that won the silver medal. She also was a member of the Korean senior national team that competed in the World Cup at Tenerife, Spain, last autumn, although she played sparingly.
“I had experience, so I know how I am playing to get better in future tournaments,” Park continued.
Ever since Park Ji Su debuted with the Las Vegas Aces of the WNBA last season, it has given Park Ji Hyun (who is not related) an added inspiration to come to the U.S.
“I want to play in the WNBA as my final goal,” Park Ji Hyun said. “I will do my best to reach my goal. Ji Su Park, she did it. She really wanted to do that and she tried.”
Regularly, Park plays for Woori Bank Wibee of the Women’s Korean Basketball League in Asan, which like her hometown of Seongnam, is just south of Seoul.
“She’s talented, she really put it to us in our game,” U.S. coach Jeff Walz added. “We had a really hard time defending her. She scored behind the three-point line, she drove and hit the pull-up jump shot. She’s a very good basketball player.”
Lee So Hee, a 5’7” 18-year-old guard, is scoring an impressive 13.4 points per game, as well. Add the two teenagers with Park Ji Su, who is still only 20 years old, and Korea has a bright basketball future for years to come.