This article was originally published in the August 2023 issue of Basket Korea Webzine. The interview was conducted on the afternoon of July 13. (Link to purchase Basket Korea Webzine)
Lee Ju-yeon, Samsung Life’s main resource, suffered a major injury in the winter of 2022. She was not guaranteed to play until the beginning of the 2023-2024 season. It was frustrating, but she is working on the basics. She wants to fulfill one wish. “I want to be healthy and meet my fans,” Lee said.
On October 17, 2016, the time and space of The K Hotel Grand Ballroom focused on one person. The spotlight was on Park Ji-soo, who participated in the 2017 WKBL Draft.
Standing at 196 centimeters, Park is a big player with great mobility and senses, and she was supposed to be the future of the WKBL. She was different from the other rookies. It was natural for Park to get all the attention. The same was true for the No. 1 rookie. In fact, Park was the first player called up by the Cheongju KB Stars. Coach Ahn Deok-soo (now a commentator for KBS N SPORTS), who selected Park, gave a big bow to the audience.
Conversely, there was not much attention paid to the other participants of the draft. The same was true for Lee Ju-yeon, who entered the WKBL as the second overall pick, but her potential was not. Her speed, strength for her position, and offense were all advantages for a guard.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime draft, but unfortunately, it was the Park Ji-soo draft.
(Park) Ji-soo was the favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick, and I knew she was good, so I thought it was natural to say, “Draft Park Ji-soo.
I think I was really aiming for No. 2.
A lot of people rated me as ‘No. 2,’ and in my young mind, I thought, ‘I can go No. 2’ (laughs), but I was wondering, ‘Which team will I go to?
In fact, you became the second pick. How did you like it?
Whenever my elementary school teacher said, “Write what you felt after watching a women’s basketball game,” I watched a Samsung Life game, so I had that memory, and then Samsung Life called me up, and I was so honored, and when I think about it, I’m still happy, and I still can’t forget that feeling.
What were your first impressions of Samsung Life after joining the team?
When I was in the youth national team, I visited the Samsung Training Center (STC), and when I saw the facilities, I thought, “This is what a pro looks like. How great would it be to work out here?” Then, as a Samsung Life player, I visited the STC, and the facilities are still great. (Laughs)
The future that became the present
In her rookie season (2016-2017), Lee played 11 regular season games. She played 12 minutes and 28 seconds per game. It wasn’t that short. Because she wasn’t just playing garbage time, her experience accumulated faster. This was due to her dedication to practice and the fact that Samsung Life coach Lim Geun-bae recognized her potential.
Her place in the team grew and grew. As she continued to grow, Lee reached a career high in the 2021-2022 season. She averaged 10.68 points, 4.79 rebounds (1.32 offensive), and 3.36 assists per game in 28 regular-season games, playing an average of 32 minutes and 36 seconds. It was a moment when Lee Ju-yeon, who was just a future player for Samsung Life, stepped into the present.
You experienced a season as a professional player. What did you think was the difference between professional and amateur?
I could feel the difference in strength, and I could feel the difference in seasoning during the game. I think I had a crazy year.
What did you feel was lacking, and what did you try to make up for?
Like I said, I didn’t have a lot of strength, because one screen and my whole body would go off. (Laughs.) I would lose my balance a lot, so that’s why I focused on weight training.
You had a career-high season in 2021-2022. What was the difference from previous seasons?
Some people said, “Isn’t it free agency?” (laughs) But I wasn’t thinking about free agency, I was thinking about meeting the team’s expectations, and I was thinking, “I can’t do this anymore.” And I got in good shape in the offseason, and I got lucky, and I think that’s why I did so well.
While we’re on the subject, Lee is eligible for free agency after the 2021-2022 season. Samsung Life signed her to a five-year contract totaling 210 million won for the 2022-2023 season, allowing her to focus more on her off-season training.
Lee’s future looked brighter, but on December 26, 2022, she collapsed in a game against Asan Woori Bank. The screams and cries could be heard for a while, and her injury was so gruesome that it was hard to believe.
So was the outcome: a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee. The diagnosis was “at least nine months of treatment”. To add insult to injury, teammate Kiana Smith tore her left knee patella tendon on the same day. This made Lee’s injury even more painful.
After becoming a free agent, she re-signed with Samsung Life.
I didn’t think about any other team other than Samsung Life. I wanted to stay unconditionally, and the secretariat offered me a good deal, so I was able to stay with Samsung Life.
I think I must have had a different mindset to prepare for the 2022-2023 season.
(Laughs) But I was injured in the off-season, so I couldn’t be with my teammates. I felt impatient and anxious at the same time, so I had a hard time at the beginning of the season. I even closed my social media accounts. I thought my performance was getting better, but…
I think the reason I stopped talking is because of December 26, 2022, when you suffered a terrible injury.
When I was boxing out, I felt like there were two guys behind me that were taller than me, but I knew I had to get the rebound, so I jumped high, and when I landed, I saw the passing lane, and I was thinking of a fast break before I landed, but when I stepped on it, I heard something snap.” (He added that the court atmosphere was chaotic even before the match started).
The diagnosis was “anterior cruciate ligament tear in the left knee.
I knew the ACL was torn when I got hurt, and I thought, “I wonder if I’ve damaged the cartilage, too.” But the doctor said, “It’s just the ACL, and it’s a clean cut.” I was a little relieved.
“With a healthy body…”
Lee has been dealing with small injuries since her professional debut. Her rehabilitation and treatment days were quite long. However, her anterior cruciate ligament tear was different from her previous injuries. Not only was the pain more intense, but the amount of time she had to focus on rehabilitation was longer.
But Lee didn’t get discouraged. With a “start from scratch” mentality, she pushed herself harder in the gym, and as a result, she was able to catch up with her teammates sooner than expected. Her sense of purpose is also stronger than before. It was to reunite with his fans with a healthy body.
Your rehabilitation was tough, wasn’t it?
Before I injured my knee, I had two ankle surgeries. I wanted to come back as soon as possible, so I pushed myself too hard, and I ended up with a sore back and soreness in other places.
This time, I had a different mindset, and I slowed down a little bit, and I thought, ‘Let’s take it slow from the beginning,’ and I think that’s what helped me recover quickly. I don’t have any pain now, and I’m doing some team training.카지노
She’s endured a grueling rehabilitation, which makes the summer of 2023 even more urgent for Lee.
I want to do well, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I don’t want to rush things, I want to do the best I can with the time I have.
Finally, do you have any words for the fans who will be waiting for Lee Ju-yeon?
I know they’re supporting me, and I know they’re worried about me, so I’m very grateful to them, but I think the only thing I can do is to show them with basketball. First of all, I want to get my body in good shape, so I can get on the court in good shape, and I want to meet the fans in good shape.