By Jason Cruz
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Welcome to The Layup Drill. This month, we take a look at a tennis star winning the Korea Open, a Filipina F1 driver joining McLaren, a new NBA referee starting his first season, Younghoe Koo as the most-clutch kicker in the NFL, and Corbin Carroll leading Diamondbacks to the World Series.
Filipina driver signs with McLaren
F1 Driver Bianca Bustamante has joined the McLaren racing team in its Driver Development program. She was the first female driver to commit to the program. The 18-year-old raced for Prema Racing in the feeder series F1 Academy. Bustamante is the daughter of former go-kart driver Raymund Bustamante.
According to an interview with TalkSport, she drove her first go-kart at 3 years old and did the Macau Kart Grand Prix at age 6. As one might assume, racing go-karts and eventually cars is expensive. She stated that her father worked three jobs to make ends meet. Bustamante began to race in the women’s only W series and had the opportunity to meet her hero, Lewis Hamilton. She was excited that Hamilton knew who she was and shared advice on being in a sport where she is usually the only person of color. Hamilton’s father is Black. Bustamante hopes to one day follow in Hamilton’s footsteps and race on the F1 circuit.
Pegula wins at Korea Open
Jessica Pegula won the Hana Bank Korea Open this past month to earn her second singles title of the season and fourth career singles title. She defeated Chinese tennis player Yue Yuan for the championship. The win in Seoul was special for her since her mother is Korean.
“I am half Korean,” the 29-year-old said in a social media post after winning the tournament. “I don’t speak and I am still learning about my culture, but I have been overwhelmed by the support from Korean fans.” Pegula’s mother was adopted out of a South Korean orphanage at the age of 5.
Her parents, Terry and Kim Pegula, are the multi-billion dollar owners of the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills and the National Hockey League’s Buffalo Sabres.
She is currently the 5th ranked woman in singles tennis, according to the Women’s Tennis Association. She is also part of a doubles combination that was the number one team in the world this past September.
NBA gets first Korean referee
As the NBA season begins, it includes the first South Korean referee in NBA history. Hwang Intae was a big basketball fan in Korea and had the ability to dunk a basketball. He would put on shows for friends in college. He started playing when in middle school, when all of his classmates played soccer. He kept at it and, now at 43 years old, is starting his first season in the league.
Hwang’s basketball career started working Korean Basketball League games for over 10 years. He also officiated tournaments for the international basketball federation, FIBA. As he worked the women’s final at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, he caught the attention of NBA’s referee administrators who asked him to enter the NBA’s Referee Development Program (RDP).
The RDP trains officials for the NBA, WNBA, and G League.
Although the RDP paid Hwang a salary, it did not guarantee him a full-time job. Hwang moved to the United States right before the pandemic in 2020 and started refereeing professional-amateur games in a New Jersey YMCA during the pandemic. He went through RDP’s classes and training while moving up the ranks to officiate summer league games and the NBA’s developmental league, the G League. Hwang speaks five languages, which has helped him while officiating over five continents. But it was his dedication to reviewing mistakes after games and knowledge of the rules that had him stand out.
Hwang is the first NBA referee from overseas to officiate a regular season NBA game. “Officiating is a kind of addiction,” Hwang said in a Washington Post interview in July. “After every single game, you feel so bad. People were yelling at me. What I read in the rule book, I forgot during the game. It was terrible. I wanted to get better and better. I want to be perfect, but now, I’ve learned from my classes that we cannot be perfect. We can only be excellent.”
Carroll leads Diamondbacks to World Series
The Arizona Diamondbacks were the surprise team that made it all the way to the World Series to face the Texas Rangers. Although they fell short, the Diamondbacks were underdogs throughout the playoffs. They upset the Milwaukee Brewers in the first round, the Los Angeles Dodgers, a World Series favorite, in the second, and the Philadelphia Phillies to win the National League Pennant and play for the title. The team was led in part by Seattle’s Corbin Carroll. Carroll, whose mother is from Taiwan, is just in his first full year with the Diamondbacks. Notably, in Game 7 of the 2023 National League Championship Series, he went 3-for-4 with two stolen bases, which made him the youngest player in MLB history with at least three hits and two steals in a playoff game.
At only 23, Carroll will be a mainstay in Arizona for years to come having signed a contract of 8 years worth $111 million. The team knows that they have a special player and want to keep him.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.