Justin Gutang has seen the best of two worlds in his first month with Changwon LG.
Besides facing Korean Basketball League teams in tuneup games, the Sakers also set up camp in the Philippines to face Philippine Basketball Association teams and University Athletic Association of the Philippines squads in a span of eight days.
And the former Filbasket Most Valuable Player sees a lot of differences between the styles of the two nations.
“The culture is very different compared to the Philippines.
“For the playstyle, I think Philippine basketball is fast, so I came here to Korea for the experience. Pro Korean teams play against each other very, very fast, as well as systematic. So that’s what I see as the difference between Philippine and Korean basketball,” said Gutang as Changwon LG was able to face the likes of Ginebra, Ateneo, Meralco, and UP.
Gutang is part of the first batch of Filipino players that will play in the KBL, along with SJ Belangel (KOGAS), RJ Abarrientos (Hyundai Mobis), Rhenz Abando (KGC), Ethan Alvano (DB), and Christian David (Samsung).
Being part of the first batch has its challenges. For Gutang, it’s the language barrier he has with his head coach Cho Sanghyun.
“It has been amazing so far, it’s a blessing experience.
“I’m just thankful that my teammates are very welcoming and kind to me. My head coach is very patient with me even when there’s a language barrier,” he said.
“I’ve been messaging them lately — SJ, RJ. I’m very excited to play against them to see how they grew as well as playing here in Korea,” he added about how he is able to cope with homesickness.
Sakers captain Lee Gwan Hee — who previously served as an Asian import for Phoenix — is just glad that there will be Filipinos in the league for years to come.
“I, myself, have played in the PBA, and just like how a lot of players come to play in the KBL and vice-versa, I think both our PBA and KBL made it possible to level up in our playing field.”
For his part, Gutang is hoping that he can deliver for Changwon LG as he wants to have a long and fruitful overseas career.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to experience different cultures of basketball, especially around the world. And obviously, PBA will always be the end goal,” he said.
“But my coach’s [Charles Tiu] advice for me was to know where I can make most of my career, develop and prolong it. I felt choosing Korea was the best for that.”