Greg Stevenson (문태영) was taken third overall in the 2009 KBL “Ethnic” draft by the Changwon LG Sakers.
He played collegiate basketball at the University of Richmond (1999-2000) and Penn State University (1996-1998) and played professionally in the NBDL, CBA, various Europe leagues and Puerto Rico.
Greg finished the 2009-10 season with the following stats (courtesy of Asia-Basket.com):
Our interview with Greg took place in May 2010.
Please note that HalfKorean.com comments/questions are in BOLD.
What made you decide to pursue playing professionally in Korea?
The pursuit of basketball in Korea started as soon as I heard there was a league there from past teammates and current friends about five years ago. Back then, I actually attended the KBL Foreigners Tryout when it was held in Chicago. Unfortunately, I was not selected. Big men were and are typically selected to fill the “foreigners” spots. As soon as the “Ethnic Foreigners” Draft became a reality, I jumped all over it.
How would you describe your overall experience in the KBL?
My overall experience in the KBL, I would have to say, was a successful one. Pre-draft was a little awkward, in order to be eligible to be drafted, I had to physically be in Korea for the event. I was currently playing for a team in the U.S. and had to break that contract in the middle of the season to attend the three day draft process. That was very odd to me and at the time, frustrating because I did not understand why. Arriving to Korea in January 2009 for the draft was a very exciting experience, being that it was my first trip to an Asian country, let alone my mother’s homeland!! I had an idea what to expect, but at the same time, had no idea what to expect if you know what I mean. I was drafted 3rd by the LG Sakers behind Tony Akins and Eric Sandrin. LG… safe to say they have a pretty solid financial background. So I was very happy about that. For all the ball players that have played professionally in Europe understand exactly what I’m talking about! The season had its share of ups and downs. Preseason workout, running in the mountains was something I hated! Running in the mountains played a large role in my negative views of the season. Another factor that played a substantial role at the beginning was the cultural differences and the approach towards a global game. It took a lot of adjusting. After a couple months of communication and just playing, I earned the trust from my coaches and teammates that I actually know what I talking about and doing, we started to be on the same page. After that, things were a lot better, which enabled me to be myself on the court and have a pretty success first season in the KBL. I really enjoyed this season minus the fact that I was missing my wife and, at the beginning 4 month old daughter.
What do/did you think of how the KBL did the “Ethnic” draft?
I felt the way the KBL’s first “Ethnic” draft was handled the best way possible, at the time. It was the very first one and all but one participant was older, some a lot older, than a college graduate. It is tough, I’m glad it is over and done with for me!
How was acceptance by teammates, players, coaches and fans?
I would have to say I was accepted with open arms by my coaches, teammates, and fans. The League in general accepted me, but not as openly and quickly as everyone else. I felt I still needed to prove myself to them before they did. The business side of the league accepted me but only when it was a benefited for that business side. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Yes, the 09-10 season was my first season, my rookie season. So that is how they treated me, which bothered me, especially when it came down to my salary. I am a 32 year old, nine year pro basketball player. Nothing about that says “rookie”. They want me to be classified as a “rookie”… but I am not eligible to win “Rookie of the Year.” Just an example of how in one breath, I am a “rookie” but also in that same breath, I am not. Not a huge deal, but just an example of what I am talking about.
How would you compare playing in the KBL to other pro leagues?
I would have to say the KBL is somewhat unique when it comes to the style of play here in Korea. The game is centered on a lot of three point shooting and fast breaking action. This style usually results in high scoring contests. Other leagues I have played in do those things, but not nearly as much. The games, in the other countries I have played in, are more physical and play a lot more half court basketball. That would be the main, glaring difference.
Did you have the opportunity to talk/meet with the first mixed Korean KBL player and current KBL Technical Commissioner, Kim Dong Kwang? If so, did he have anything to share?
I did have the opportunity to briefly meet Kim Dong Kwang. We shook hands, he welcomed me to the KBL and wished me luck. But that was about it, time restraints it seemed.
Between the five picks and two existing players (Daniel Sandrin & Julian Fernandez), did you guys get a chance to bond at all while in Korea even though you were in different cities?
Being that Tony, Eric, and I are around the same age and traveled a similar path (after college, playing ball as a career) that bond was easily cemented. We did not have a lot of free time during the season, so it was hard to meet up, but we did when we could for the most part. During those times of freedom, Daniel would normally be somewhere around his brother, so that is when I mostly hung out with him. Kevin Mitchell is a real cool dude and we kicked it when the opportunity presented itself, but like I said, it was pretty rare we had time off. I really did not see Julian Fernandez and Chris Vann, Chris was all the way down south in Busan.
What are your goals in the KBL and how long do you plan to play in the league? Would you pursue Korean citizenship to be able to play for the national team as others have?
My two main goals are to be the best player I can be and to win a KBL championship. I believe if I do that, everything else will fall into place as far as the individual accolades. I would love to continue playing in Korea as long as I still enjoy the game and everything that comes along with it. That my body still feels good, but more importantly, my family being taken care of and are okay with the whole atmosphere and situation. As far as obtaining Korean citizenship to play for the National team, I cannot take the route to obtain it as the others did. My situation is a little different. I have to wait. So, right now, I am actively trying to learn the language and culture and then when the time comes in which I can try to obtain it. That would be the next step.
Interview by: David Lee Sanders
(Pictures courtesy of KBL & various online sources)