Uniform number 23, initials MJ… 20-year-old monster dreaming of volleyball Jordan
His name is the same as that of a soccer team defender, but his uniform number is the same as that of a basketball emperor. The main character is Kim Min-jae (20, Korean Air, height 1m95cm), a ‘twenty-year-old monster’ who appeared like a comet on the volleyball board.
Korean Air, the defending champion of men’s professional volleyball, is cruising this season as well. As of the 25th, it is leading alone and looking forward to winning for three consecutive years. This is thanks to the existence of national team members such as Han Seon-su, Jeong Ji-seok, Kwak Seung-seok, and Lim Dong-hyuk, who have been working together for a long time. New blood was added here. It is evaluated that as middle blocker Kim Min-jae, a second-year high school graduate, grew stronger.
Kim Min-jae started all 24 games this season. He is also running at the top of his personal records, such as 3rd in fast break (62.0%) and 8th in blocking (0.533 per set). He makes frequent mistakes due to his lack of experience, but he is calmly accumulating points by using his excellent flying ability. Thanks to that, even at a young age, he confidently beat his seniors and became the starting pitcher. Kim Min-jae, whom I recently met at the Korean Air Gymnasium in Yongin, Gyeonggi-do, said, “I have been involved in various sports such as track and field since elementary school. As a result, he seems to have improved his motor nerves and jumping ability naturally.” 메이저놀이터
In 2021, when he was a junior at Inhabu High School, Minjae Kim boldly chose to go pro instead of going to college. In the end, Korean Air nominated him with the first pick in the second round. He received more attention because he had the same name as soccer team defender Kim Min-jae (Napoli, 1m90cm). They have a good physique like soccer defender Kim Min-jae, and they have one thing in common: their main job is to block the opponent’s attack. Kim Min-jae said, “I often look for highlights or game broadcasts of senior Kim Min-jae of the soccer team. It is an honor to be compared just because he has the same name.”
Kim Min-jae, who wore number 4 last year, will wear number 23 starting this season. It is the number worn by Jordan, the king of basketball. Until last year, the Korea Volleyball Federation had limited uniform numbers from 1 to 20, but from this year, it is allowed to wear up to 99. Then, Kim Min-jae chose number 23, which reminded him of Jordan. Kim Min-jae, born in 2003, the year Jordan announced his third retirement from the Washington Wizards, said, “Of course, I’ve never seen Jordan play. But he never watched the highlights on YouTube. He also looked for quotes left by Jordan,” he said.
The reason why Kim Min-jae became an idol of Jordan is thanks to Korean Air coach Tommy Tillikainen (Finland). Kim Min-jae said, “The director calls me ‘MJ (Minjae),’ the same initials as Jordan. He naturally came to look for Jordan’s performance, and as a result, he changed his uniform number,” he explained.
Kim Min-jae started playing volleyball in the 3rd year of Bupyeong-dong Middle School. He is a late-born volleyball player. In his third year of middle school, his height already exceeded 1m90cm. Kim Min-jae said, “Before becoming a volleyball player, I worked hard at sports clubs. He played basketball, soccer, flying disc, kabaddi and futsal. He even got an offer to be a kickboxer.”
Korean Air coach Tillikainen highly appreciates Kim Min-jae’s potential. Coach Jang Kwang-gyun caught him and taught him from the basics. Thanks to that, Kim Min-jae scored 18 points in the final game last season, his first year as a pro. And this season, he has been a starting member since the opening game. Kim Min-jae said, “(Han Seon-sun, Yoo Kwang-woo, etc.) the setter hyungs also help a lot. The director says, ‘Do it confidently’. Coach Casper taught me in detail about the hand shape when blocking.”
The reaction of the fans to the appearance of a large middle blocker that appeared after a long time is also hot. In the all-star fan vote, Kim Min-jae proudly placed second in the men’s division. Kim Min-jae said, “Last season, I watched the team win from the bench. This season, I want to contribute to the team championship. I will throw my body for Korean Air’s treble (winning the cup, regular league, and championship),” he said.