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Hachimura and Watanabe spearhead constellation of rising stars set to carry Japanese hopes at World Cup
NAGOYA (Japan) - Rui Hachimura, Yuta Watanabe and Yudai Baba lead a troop of rising stars ready to carry Japan's World Cup hopes in China next month.
The Japan Basketball Association (JBA) unveiled today their 16-man pool for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019, and the noticeable presence of young talents is a clear message that the Akatuski Five are laying the foundations for a potentially bright future.
|Japan 16-man pool for FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019|
|Seiya Ando||Shuto Ando||Yudai Baba||Nick Fazekas|
|Rui Hachimura||Tenketsu Harimoto||Makoto Hiejima||Atsuya Ota|
|Avi Koki Schafer||Ryusei Shinoyama||Joji Takeuchi||Kosuke Takeuchi|
|Daiki Tanaka||Leo Vendrame||Hiyu Watanabe||Yuta Watanabe|
The biggest name on the preliminary squad is, of course, Rui Hachimura, who played in four Asian Qualifiers games. The 2.03m (6ft 8in) forward was among the top players in the NCAA for the 2018-2019 season and is expected to be a major impact player for the Washington Wizards in his rookie NBA season.
In the World Cup, Hachimura is projected to be Japan's most dangerous weapon as he has a polished offensive arsenal from inside stretching to the perimeter. His partner in crime will likely be Yuta Watanabe, who saw action for the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2018-2019 NBA regular season and was a nightmare matchup for Japan's foes in the Asian Qualifiers.
Also in the mix are top-shelf talents from the B.League, led by wonderful wingmen Makoto Hiejima and Daiki Tanaka, high-flying Yudai Baba, who's also another rising star, and naturalized player Nick Fazekas.
This will be Japan's first appearance at the World Cup since hosting the competition in 2006, where they ended up among the 17th to 20th place teams. Curiously enough, there will be two holdovers from that World Cup squad from 13 years ago, the vaunted Takeuchi twins - Kosuke and Joji.
In 2006, both Takeuchi boys were fresh from finishing their university playing years (Kosuke at Keio University and Joji at Tokai University) and were Japan's own rising stars.
Hachimura and Watanabe were at the Trophy Tour stop in Tokyo
Now they have come full circle, serving as the seasoned veterans on a team where Hachimura, Watanabe, Baba and Co. have inherited the mantle of stardom.
Rising from Japan's national training team, which just finished their tour of duty at the William Jones Cup 2019, are Seiya Ando, Shuto Ando, Avi Koki Schafer, Tenketsu Harimoto and the pool's youngest player, 2.07m (6ft 10in) center Hiyu Watanabe, who will turn 21 in December.