17 - 24
September 2023
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Chusonjakku Shiratani: Japan's youngest star is confident and ambitious

DOHA (Qatar) - Chusonjakku Shiratani is a standout player, by the true definition of the word.

He stands out as the tallest player on the Japan team at the FIBA U16 Asian Championship 2023 at 1.94M (6'4"). Once he spreads out his arms and legs on defense, he stands out - or rather spreads out - by covering a lot of ground.

In his first game ever representing Japan, Shiratani stood out with a solid performance of 9 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 steals. Not bad for someone his age.

By "his age", this does not only mean in the context of being just a youngster at the U16 level. It means Shiratani's actual age of just only 14 years and just under 5 months - having been born on 29 April 2009. Not only does this make him the youngest player on this team, but also the second youngest player of the entire competition (Sri Lanka's Aaron Gerald was born on 28 May 2009).

But as the saying goes, age is just a number.


That's a bold statement from a young man, but from what everyone has seen in his debut against Iran, he's proven to be true to his word.

Shiratani put up solid numbers in the box score and even led the team in Efficiency with 22. However, more than just the raw numbers, he was on the floor for the entire fourth quarter which Japan started out trailing by 6 points in what was a very important game. He hustled for rebounds and drew fouls.

The big moment was making the game-sealing play with one minute left in the game, skying for an offensive rebound and attacking the basket for a left-handed layup that ignited a primal roar of satisfaction to give Japan the three-point lead they would hold on to at the final buzzer.


Again, Shiratani is just 14 years old and was going up against an Iran squad that was mainly 16. And he's only been playing basketball for 5 years.

"I was 9 years old [when I started playing basketball]," he said.

Even though no one in his family played basketball, the game found its way to him anyway.

"I'm the only one in my family who plays basketball," Shiratani told Gekkan Basket in 2022. "But my brother's friend plays basketball, and after I learned about the NBA, I fell in love with basketball and decided to give it a try."

As with any beginner, it took some time for Shiratani to get used to playing the sport, but his love for the game and passion to improve certainly accelerated the process.

"When he first joined the team, he was not very good at dribbling," said his former coach Teruyuki Niwa as per Gekkan Basket.

"He is very dexterous and good at dribbling, and he always has his mom's phone with him to watch NBA videos and study them."

Therefore, there is no surprise as to what Shiratani envisions for his future.

"I want to be a professional player and play in one of the top-level leagues."

Among one of the players he studies is Greek national team superstar, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Shiratani has always said that he wants to play like the "Greek Freak", a player who he likes for the "post plays and coast-to-coast dunks". That should bring a smile to the faces of Japan basketball fans, who are already enjoying a promising era of basketball in the nation.

They will also be happy to know that this young up-and-comer Shiratani is already communicating with his seniors, looking for ways to get better and prepared for senior national team play if the call comes.

"I respect Yuto Kawashima," said Shiratani, referring to the MVP of FIBA U16 Asian Championship 2022. "He gave me advice and told me that I should play and think like a point guard.”

Yuto Kawashima, FIBA U16 Asian Championship 2022

You can see some of that influence already right from the start. Despite being the tallest player on the team, Shiratani doesn't anchor himself in the post. He roams on the perimeter and is capable of putting the ball on the floor and attacking the basket. Whenever he grabs a defensive rebound or steals the ball, he has shown that he is comfortable bringing the ball up himself as well.

If he keeps on playing this way, maybe he could find himself receiving the MVP trophy like his respected senior Kawashima - whether it is this edition of the U16 Asian Championship or even the next one in which he will still be eligible to play.

But Shiratani is looking even further than that into the future. He saw how Akatsuki Japan played their way to qualifying for Paris 2024 from the recent World Cup in Okinawa and is already hoping to be a part of that as soon as he can.

"I think the Japan national team will be taller in the future. [But we] should keep running fast like [we did] this year. I hope I can be one of them. I want to grab rebounds and lead the fast break."