American-born Korea basketball star Ra Gun-ah bows out

메리 2024. 2. 26. 11:20
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Ra Gun-ah, the first naturalized member of the Korean men's national basketball team, is retiring from national duty after six years on the roster.
Ra Gun-a, right, attempts a block against Thailand during a qualifier to the 2025 FIBA Asia Cup at Wonju Gymnasium in Wonju, Gangwon on Sunday. [YONHAP]

Ra Gun-ah, the first naturalized member of the Korean men’s national basketball team, is retiring from national duty.

The 35-year-old forward announced the news Sunday after Korea defeated Thailand 96-62 in a qualifier for the 2025 FIBA Asia Cup at Wonju Gymnasium in Wonju, Gangwon.

“I would like to say thank you so much for making me the first foreign player to represent this great country on the international level,” Ra, whose Korean name is sometimes stylized as Ra Gun-a, wrote in an Instagram post on Sunday. “I’d like to say thank you to everyone who supported me throughout this journey, believed in my ability, and trusted me to represent this country the right way.”

Ra Gun-a, left, stands with his teammates during the qualifier against Thailand for the 2025 FIBA Asia Cup at Wonju Gymnasium in Wonju, Gangwon on Sunday. [YONHAP]

Ra, who has spent the majority of his professional career in Korea, is hanging up his national team jersey after six years on the roster. He was named national team captain ahead of the Asia Cup qualifiers.

“It’s crazy to think I’m actually the eldest player on the team my last stint and was elected team captain thanks to my brothers and the coaching staff. To the fans, thank you so much for sticking with me and always supporting me. I love you all just as much as you love me,” he said.

Ra, also known as Ricardo Ratcliffe, became a naturalized Korean citizen in January 2018 after reportedly expressing his intention to do so a year earlier.

That year, Ra led the team to a bronze medal at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia as Korea’s top scorer, netting 37 points in Korea’s 89-81 victory over Chinese Taipei in the bronze medal match.

He made his professional debut in Korea with Ulsan Mobis Phoebus in 2012, joining the KBL team fresh out of an NCAA career at the University of Missouri.

He spent three seasons in Ulsan, seeing the team through three consecutive KBL championships, before signing with the Seoul Samsung Thunders for the 2015-2016 season.

He then spent two brief spells in the Philippines with PBA side Star Hotshots — barely making the height cutoff for the 2017 Commissioner’s Cup, an annual PBA tournament. The limit is 6-feet 10-inches; Ra is 6-foot-8.

He returned to Korea for another season in Seoul before rejoining Mobis Phoebus in 2018 and moving to current team Busan KCC Egis, who sit in 5th place on the 10-team table as of Monday, in 2020.

Korea's Ra Gun-a shoots under the basket in front of the opponent's defense in a match against Thailand in a group stage qualifier to the 2025 FIBA Asia Cup at Wonju Gymnasium in Wonju, Gangwon on Sunday. [NEWS1]

“Thank you to the KBA, KBL, Coach Lee Sang Min, and my great teammates throughout the years. All of you guys are my brothers for life,” Ra said in the Instagram post, writing the message in both Korean and English. “I don’t know what the future holds for me since I’m a free agent at the end of this season but I just wanted to let it be known that I’m forever grateful for this opportunity. Korean Basketball Fighting.”

BY MARY YANG [mary.yang@joongang.co.kr]

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