The Seoul SK Knights are among the favourites to win the title next season, along with KCC, KT and LG. They have the strength of last season’s championship runners-up, plus the return of Ahn Young-joon (28‧194.1cm) from military service and the addition of KGC star Oh Se-geun (36‧199.8cm), who contended for the title this season.안전놀이터
The average age of the core players is a variable, but based on what they have shown so far, it is possible to compete for the championship for two to three seasons. Moreover, it is possible to do more than that with seasoned players, as Kia Motors did in the past when it was an unemployed basketball team. SK’s heartthrob Kim Sun-hyung (34‧187cm) and the country’s top big man, Oh Se-geun, are known for their self-discipline.
The positive culture they have instilled in the team can be trickled down to other veterans such as Heo Il-young and Choi Boo-kyung. With a deep roster and a rotation that works well, SK’s glory days are likely to continue for some time. However, there is a catch. Foreign players are a huge part of the team, and it’s only when they are stable that the team is able to build a complete roster.
That’s why it’s so important for SK to keep their first option foreign player, Jamil Warney (29‧199cm). He has been with the team since 2019 and has a good relationship with the club and his teammates, so it is likely that he will wear an SK jersey next season, barring any special circumstances such as a transfer to another league. As the saying goes, ‘SK’s firepower comes from Kim Sun-hyung and Wohni’, and Wohni is a must-have for the team to stay in the championship.
Warney is arguably the best foreign player in the KBL. He made his presence felt in the 2019-20 season, winning the Rookie of the Year award before making his debut. SK fans were thrilled to have a new foreign star to replace long-time foreign player Aaron Haynes. Trouble came the following season. Due to personal issues and poor training, he was unable to show the same form as the previous season. His on- and off-court behaviour became more erratic.
This is why SK had serious doubts about re-signing Warney after the season. New head coach Jeon Hee-chul chose to keep Warney. The second season was a mixed bag, but he believed that Warney, who had prepared properly for the season, still had the skills to be one of the best in the league. The former coach’s gamble paid off.
Warney went on to win the Foreign Player of the Year award for the second year in a row, cementing his role as a pillar of SK. He has now won the award three times in his career, which is tied for the most with Johnny McDowell and Lagana. If he adds another award in the future, he will move into sole possession of first place. SK and Warne are also said to be in talks to extend his contract for next season, as they have a great deal of trust in each other.
Despite falling just short of the title, Warney’s consistent scoring has been a big part of SK’s better-than-expected performance this season. Throughout the playoffs, Warney put on a scoring show in a variety of ways. He used the power of his athletic frame to drive to the basket for heavy post-ups and hook shots, and he grabbed rebound after rebound after rebound after missed shot after missed shot.
We can’t forget Jeon’s press ‘floater’. When people think of a player in SK who is good at shooting floaters, they usually think of Kim Sun-hyung. In fact, Kim is often referred to as the league’s leading floater master. But Warney is a close second with his floater. When his fingertips are hot, his accuracy is almost “throw it and it goes in”. It doesn”t matter if it”s from far or close, with or without a defender.
He often throws from near the post, as well as from the free throw line or just below the three-point line, with a significant success rate. Between double- and triple-teams, he’s often caught in the middle of a double- or triple-team, and even though it looks like he’s just flicking it in, he keeps going, leaving the defender floundering. For a player who is supposed to be a scoring machine, Warney is big, flexible, and skilful.
He’s also got a power tool, so he doesn’t get pushed around or lose his centre of gravity when he’s surrounded by defenders, which is why he’s so balanced on offence and has a high success rate. His energy level is also high. He doesn’t just sit back and let his scoring ability get the better of him, he runs around, sets screens, and actively participates in rebounding.
But he doesn’t just attack alone. He also has good vision, so when he sees an open teammate, he doesn’t force the issue and looks for the open shot. It is no exaggeration to say that Warney is the most valuable foreign player at this point. Due to the one-player foreign player system, it is not easy to bring in swingmen and guards, even if they have good skills. This is because they can’t defend under the basket.
In that regard, Warney’s ability to score in the paint at the highest level of any foreigner in history, his ability to act as a trailer in the fast break despite his size, and his defensive prowess to physically contain opposing big men’s attacks make him a coveted resource for any team. He’s been criticised for his weaknesses on the perimeter, but it’s probably greedy to expect that from a power-technician of Warney’s size and weight.
If he could shoot three-pointers at a decent level and defend the perimeter, we might never see him in Korea. In any case, if the dynamic duo with Kim Sun-hyung and the twin towers with Oh Se-geun continue to function smoothly, opponents will have a harder time stopping SK’s firepower. It will be interesting to see if Wony, the ultimate Black Knight, can stay with SK next season and lead the Knight Legion to greatness.