On a sunny Tuesday afternoon at Wan Chai's Southorn Playground, So Yi-chun had a good reason to stand taller than the other 63 men who played in the Red Bull King of The Rock Hong Kong Qualifier: he'd just won.
So, who plays for Winling in the Hong Kong A1 Division League, will represent Hong Kong in the final on September 24 at the legendary prison yard on Alcatraz Island, known as The Rock, in San Francisco, United States. So will be one of 64 finalists from around the world competing for the Red Bull King of the Rock title.
So is looking forward to playing top players from across the globe, as well as meeting the event ambassador and MC, NBA all-star point guard Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics. 'When I meet Rondo, I'll ask him the secret to his incredible speed,' he says.
Talking about his preparations, So emphasised the importance of stamina. 'Every game lasts only five minutes, but it is a long, long five minutes. The player has to do everything, score ... and play defence. Every player in the finals is great and fundamentally sound, and every play counts - lose focus for a moment and you lose the game, so I plan to do some serious work staying in top shape.'
So has no real expectations for the finals, but hopes to showcase Hong-Kong-style basketball. 'I've watched some tapes of players from other places; they're very quick and strong, so the competition will be tough. I am a pretty well-rounded player who can shoot from outside and play in the post [the area by the basket]. My strategy will be to use my speed and agility to score against bigger players and punish smaller guys in the post,' he says.
Not surprisingly, the local tournament was dominated by players with connections to the A1 Division League. Three of the four semi-finalists were either current or former A1 Division players, the exception being Harris Chung.
The most entertaining game was the semi-final between So and Chung. The game went to overtime with the score tied at 6-6. In the two-minute overtime period, the winner was still undecided, with the score deadlocked at 8-8. So the golden score rule, in which the first to score wins, was brought in.
So was aggressive driving the ball to the basket and drew fouls from Chung. In the end, Chung fouled out with five fouls, and So advanced to the finals. Chung says: 'I was rather disappointed about fouling out. I was really tired and not aware of already having picked up four fouls. Congrats to So; he's an extremely talented player.'
In the other semi-final, Jason Yan beat Glen Joe 11-8 on a last-second, three-point shot. But exhaustion caught up with Yan in the finals, and So won 11-10.
The event was held in association with the Hong Kong Basketball Association, and in partnership with Milk, Young Post and WESC.
Go to www.redbull.hk/ kingoftherock for more details