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Lamas unveils final Japan roster for Asian Qualifiers
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Lamas unveils final Japan roster for Asian Qualifiers

TOKYO (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers) - Head coach Julio Lamas announced his final choices for Japan's roster when they face nemesis Philippines at the Komazawa Gymnasium.

The Argentine tactician stuck to his big guns for this final roster, choosing Makoto Hiejima to play despite the 1.90m wingman not 100%. Hiejima has proven to be a potent scorer, especially when Japan play the Philippines. In two games against Gilas Pilipinas, Hiejima averaged 22.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals.

Japan 12-man roster for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers
 Yudai Baba  Ira Brown  Takatoshi Furukawa Tenketsu Harimoto 
 Makoto Hiejima  Atsuya Ota  Ryusei Shinoyama Joji Takeuchi 
 Kosuke Takeuchi  Daiki Tanaka  Yuki Togashi  Naoki Uto

Joining Hiejima at the perimeter will be veterans Daiki Tanaka and Takatoshi Furukawa. Their experience and shooting touch will be key as the Japanese will surely try to stretch the Filipinos' defense. Rising star Yudai Baba also made the cut, giving coach Lamas added versatility and athleticism at the wingman positions.

Speedster Yuki Togashi will serve as this team's main floor general, and the diminutive former NBA G-League player will need to step up big time against the likes of Jayson Castro and Kiefer Ravena. His reliever will be Naoki Uto of the Toyama Grouses in the B. League.

Holding up the frontline will be the Takeuchi twins - Joji and Kosuke - as well as seasoned big man Atsuya Ota, naturalized forward Ira Brown and another rising star in Tenketsu Harimoto. They give up some size to the Philippines' frontline that boasts of Andray Blatche and June Mar Fajardo, but they will try to compensate with their tenacity and physicality.

Harimoto, in particular, seems to be in Blatche's crosshairs, as the American-born former NBA player talked about him in an interview with Japanese media.

"Japan has strong guards, but I heard that No. 88 (Harimoto) is also good," Blatche said. "We will take this game very seriously."

Japan are aiming at an emphatic start to their Asian Qualifiers, and a win over the Filipinos would do exactly that. After this game, the Akatsuki Five fly out to Adelaide to play Australia at the Titanium Arena.