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Japan select 12 men to chase Olympic dream
BELGRADE (2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments) - Japan head coach Kenji Hasegawa has announced the 12-strong roster which will represent the nation at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Belgrade starting Monday. The Japanese side are aiming to make their first trip to an Olympic Games since Montreal 1976.
|Japan 12-player roster for 2016 FIBA OQT in Belgrade|
|Takatoshi Furukawa||Ryoma Hashimoto||Makoto Hiejima||Kenta Hirose|
|Keijuro Matsui||Ryumo Ono||Atsuya Ota||Yuta Tabuse|
|Joji Takeuchi||Kosuke Takeuchi||Naoto Tsuji||Yuta Watanabe|
The roster is largely unchanged from the 2015 side which clinched a semi-final berth in the FIBA Asia Championship in China. The only two players from that squad who will not step out in Belgrade are power forward Gaku Arao and guard Daiki Tanaka.
Instead, veteran Kosuke Takeuchi who had missed out at last year's tournament following an almost uninterrupted nine-year stint in the Japanese jersey, is returning to the national team to contribute more size inside and his rebounding ability.
Meanwhile Naoto Tsuji, a 26-year-old shooting guard, will be pulling on the national team jersey for the first time since 2013, when he made his senior debut at the Asian Championship.
Japan are therefore expected to present a style of play similar to that of last year in their continental championship and all eyes will be on guard Makoto Hiejima and power forward Joji Takeuchi.The dynamic duo led Japan in scoring in the tournament in China, averaging 15.9 points and 15.6 points, respectively.
The oldest player on the roster is point guard Yuta Tabuse, who made his senior national team debut last year, at the age of 34, and will captain Japan in Belgrade. On the other end of the spectrum is small forward Yuta Watanabe, who is now 21. Watanabe set the record for the youngest ever player to feature on the senior Japanese national team when he made his debut at the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship.
Japan will play against Latvia in the Belgrade OQT opener on Monday and will take on the Czech Republic on Wednesday. If they take one of the top two spots in Group B they will clash with one of Angola, Puerto Rico or Serbia in Friday's semi-finals. Only the winner of the six-team event will qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Games.