Student of Chris Paul's game Chinami Yokoyama determined to win U18 title
BENGALURU (India) - Chinami Yokoyama is confident about Japan's chances at the FIBA U18 Women's Asian Championship 2022 Division A.
"I think that we have a chance to win the championship if we play our basket from the beginning to the end," she said.
"I want to become a player that has a high basketball IQ and knows how to control the game like Chris Paul."
So far, it's looking good for Yokoyama and her team. They are undefeated in the Group Phase with wins over Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, and defending champions China while getting everyone involved on both ends of the floor.
The #AkatsukiJapan 🇯🇵 weathered a 39-point explosion from Hsiao Yu Wen to open Division A action, while 🇨🇳 China, 🇰🇷 Korea, and 🇦🇺 Australia all booked wins for fine starts in Bengaluru! 🏀#FIBAU18Asia x #FIBAAsiaCupWomenhttps://t.co/rfQ7VUvZZP— FIBA Women's Asia Cup (@fibasiacupwomen) September 6, 2022
And that's the level of excellence that is expected from the women's basketball teams of Japan, regardless of age group. The senior women's national team have won five straight Women's Asia Cup. The U16 team have made it to the Final in five of the past 6 editions of the competition. This U18 team has made it to the Final of the competition five consecutive times.
But to finally win the U18 Women's Asian Championship this year, they have to continue doing what they do well.
"To play hard against our opponent with increasing agility and keeping a fast pace throughout the game," said Yokoyama of what "their" basketball is.
This summer of basketball at the youth level has been good for Japan. All of their teams, whether it's the men's team at the U16 and U18 level or the women's U16 squad, have all been one of the top teams in their respective Asian Championship competitions.
All of those teams made it to the Final and qualified for the U17 or U19 World Cup., and that's something that Yokoyama wants to achieve as well.
"Seeing the same aged players play against the top teams has really inspired me," she said. "It made me think that I want to be in the same spot as them and play at the level."
However, none of those teams that made it to the Final of each competition were able to win in the championship game. They all came close… but in the end it was not enough to give Japan that first title of this summer.
Yokoyama is hoping that this U18 team can be the one to do it for the country.
"I think that these motivation [of winning the title] will relate to the level up of basketball in Japan." Said Yokoyama. "I really want to become a champion in this tournament."
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For Japan, as long as they have Chinami Yokoyama performing at the level she's been playing, they should be in a good position to finally win it all. She's been an important part of a balanced Japan team where all players are averaging over 10 minutes per game. The 1.70M (5'7") guard has one of the highest Efficiency rating on the team at 18.0 while also averaging 13.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 3.0 steals per game.
The 18-year-old falls in line with the trend of Japan producing cerebral guards. After getting into the sport because of her older sister, Yokoyama fell in love with the fun of the game and excitement of winning.
As she fell even deeper in love for the game, Yokoyama picked up idols and players to emulate and you can see that in the way she plays the game.
"I look up to Chris Paul and Kelsey Plum," she said. "I want to become a player that has a high basketball IQ and knows how to control the game like Chris Paul."
"Also, [I want] to have the high one-on-one skills like Kelsey Plum," she added while also noting that she wanted to play with Plum one of these days.
Obviously, another idol that Yokoyama has is the local hometown hero who turned heads at the recent Olympics and inspired many, many young Japanese basketball players - especially female ballers.
"Rui [Machida] has taught us that even if you are small, you are still able to play in the top level," Yokoyama said of the Olympic silver medalist. "Her speed and agility and the strength of Japanese basketball has proved that it can compete at the worldwide level."
Right now, Japan basketball's immediate mission is to prove that their basketball can not only compete but win it all at the U18 Women's Asian Championship Division A.
With Chinami Yokoyama’s talent and confidence, they are in a good position to finally get that title for Japan basketball.