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Japan make final selections for Turkey
TOKYO (FIBA World Championship for Women) - Japan coach Tomohide Utsumi knows which 12 players he will be able to call upon when his team lines out at Ankara Arena for the FIBA World Championship for Women in Turkey.
The Group A participants, who will play against Brazil, the Czech Republic and Spain, will be without a third of their FIBA Asia Championship for Women gold-medal winning team with four absentees from those who lit it up in Bangkok, Thailand last year.
While their scintillating playmaker Asami Yoshida was always going to skip the tournament and never in consideration along with Chika Sakuragi, there will be no outing on European soil for Kana Motoyama or Arisa Fujiwara either.
The duo were perhaps always the most vulnerable at losing their respective places, having played the least amount of minutes en-route to the top of the podium.
That means opportunities for a quartet of players who didn't get to celebrate in the Thai capital, with Maki Takada headlining that particular list after getting the nod to re-ignite her national team career, having last featured for her country at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Womenin Ankara two years ago.
Her blistering domestic season under the hoop with Denso Iris in the WJBL bodes well for Japan, who may well be able to field the most effective and potent frontcourt in their history at the event.
There is a recall for Moeko Nagaoka, who will represent her country outside of her homeland for the first time, having last featured at the FIBA Asia Championship for Women three years ago in Japan.
There will be major tournament debuts at the senior level for both Mika Kurihara and Chinatsu Yamamoto.
The former has worn national team colours at the World University Games, with the versatile Yamamoto an exciting addition, having garnered a terrific all-action haul of 11 points and 3.9 rebounds and two assists per game playing for Fujitsu Redwave last season.
As well as the newcomers and returnees, the backbone of the Japanese team - outside of the absent Yoshida - will remain largely the same form last year.
Yuko Oga will continue dazzling with her skills and ever present smile in the backcourt, while the outstanding Yuka Mamiya and FIBA Asia Championship for Women MVP Ramu Tokashiki will form an intriguing frontcourt rotation with Takada.
Japan are also sending a strong looking team to the Asian Games in Incheon, Korea, a tournament which will take place during the same time as the FIBA World Championship for Women.