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July 2016
4 Yuki Mikami (JPN)
24/07/2016
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Captain Mikami passing his experience onto others

TEHRAN (2016 FIBA Asia U18 Championship) - Yuki Mikami would like to make good a regret from two years ago and use his experience to help Japan get into the final four at the 2016 FIBA Asia U18 Championship and also return to the global stage. 

Mikami was 16 years old when Japan lost to Korea in the Quarter-Finals of the 2014 FIBA Asia U18 Championship, missing out on last summer's FIBA U19 World Championship. That shouldn't be repeated in Tehran.

"We lost to Korea in in the Quarters and to Philippines in the 5-6 Classification. We were not able to accomplish our goal which remains a regret of mine," said Mikami, who nailed four three-pointers and scored 12 points in that loss. "I would like to utilise that experience and relay to my teammates who do not have that experience. And when the team is not performing well, I want to change the atmosphere."

Yuki Mikami is leading Japan at FIBA Asia U18 as captain.

Japan have not played at the U19 Worlds since 1999 - a year after grabbing their last FIBA Asia U18 podium finish in third place. But the aim is for Mikami and Co. to finish in the first three and book their ticket to the 2016 FIBA U19 World Championship. 

"We only have played two games so we must grow as a team. But we want to make it to the top three and qualify for the U19 Worlds," Mikami said.

Outside shooting is a major factor in Japan's game and Mikami has struggled thus far in Tehran, hitting just 5-of-28 from long range while fellow sharpshooter Yudai Nishida also has been off with just 7-of-24 three-pointers. 

As a team, Japan are making just 23 percent of their long balls. And the team needs to look for different ways to win if that happens, said Mikami, who scored nine points and hit just 2-of-10 three-pointers against Iran but iced the thrilling win with his free throw with 6 seconds to play.

"Some certain times, we are not able to make our shots. If that happens, we have to penetrate more and kick out or dish," said Mikami, who is averaging 9.0 points and 3.7 rebounds as Japan are 2-1 in their group. "We should not rely on outside shooting. We must play much better defence in that period of time."

"I would like to utilise that experience (losing in FIBA Asia U18 Quarter-Finals) and relay to my teammates who do not have that experience. And when the team is not performing well, I want to change the atmosphere." Mikami

Still, shooting is Mikami's forte. The Hokkaido native started to play basketball when he was 10 years old because his mother was a coach. And he grew up watching role model J.J. Redick launch three-pointers for the Los Angeles Clippers.

Mikami showed at this spring's Albert Schweitzer Tournament in Germany what he is capable of doing from outside. After hitting just 24 percent of his triples in the first three games at that tournamemt, Mikami heated up and nailed at least five threes in Japan's final three games, making 19 of 35 three-balls - or 54 percent - to finish at 42 percent for the tournament.

Mikami has another goal a bit more long term than even playing next summer at the 2017 FIBA U19 World Championship. He would love to play for his country at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. 

"I would like to be able to make that team," he said. "I need to have much better shooting performances, plus my passing, penetration, and all other skills must be polished."

Until the Olympics, Mikami has plenty of time. Now he wants to make up for that regret from two years ago.

FIBA