How will rising Asia Cup contenders Japan fare at first Olympics appearance in 45 years?
TOKYO (Japan) - One of the fastest rising basketball programs in Asia will be playing against the world’s best teams in Tokyo. Hopes are high for Japan and there’s a few good reasons why.
How will they perform in their first appearance on the men’s basketball court at the Olympics in 45 years?
It’s always fun to see how far once-in-a-generation talents can take a team. We saw Yao Ming take China to greater heights in his prime. We saw Hamed Haddadi help raise the level of Iran basketball to be among the top in Asia when he ascended into stardom.
The question that we’re all waiting to see answered is "How good can Japan become with Rui Hachimura?".
As the first Japanese-born player to be selected in the first round of the NBA Draft, the expectations are sky high.
Rui’s been solid in his first two NBA seasons, averaging 13.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game for the Washington Wizards. The 23-year-old has been just as spectacular with the senior men’s national team. He displayed that immediately in his debut against Australia at the World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers where he scored 24 points in a historic victory.
The sky’s the limit for Rui Hachimura which means the sky’s the limit for Japan basketball, too.
Rui is not alone either.
Japan has been carefully building up the entire basketball scene within the country to develop high-level talents as well. One of the early products of these efforts is the rise of Yuta Watanabe, who also made his way to play in the NBA as an undrafted player after a successful collegiate career.
Yudai Baba is not far behind. The athletic forward had excelled at an early age playing in the domestic league and has only continued to succeed at the international level, most recently winning an NBL title in Australia.
The Japanese B.League has also played a big part in developing other stars that are littered across the lineup like Yuki Togashi and Daiki Tanaka, making Japan a team that cannot be underestimated.
Point to prove
The men’s basketball team of Japan have not played in the Olympics since way back nearly 5 decades ago in 1976, which was their 6th appearance ever in tournament. Shigeaki Abe’s 38-point performance against Puerto Rico was the highlight for Japan that year in the Olympics where they went 1-6 to finish at 11th place.
The national team program has come a long way since and are out to showcase that development against the best teams in the world.
Japan have been showing everyone what they are capable of whether it’s upsetting Australia in the World Cup Qualifiers to beating France in a recent exhibition game leading up to the Olympics.
Now they’ll get the chance to put their talents on display once again on one of the largest stages of competition in the basketball world.