TOKYO, Japan (22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship): Japan basketball is in a resurgent mode. The performance of the National Team at the 26th FIBA Asia Championship at Wuhan (China) last year immediately followed by that of their U16 team at the 2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship at Nha Trang City (Vietnam) meant that there measures taken to improve the standards at all levels.
Therefore when Hisao Sato leads the Japanese U18 team at the 22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship starting in Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) in two weeks, it’s a matter of checking the progress made in this development process and finding methods to plug the loopholes.
Sato spoke to this website about the prospects of the Japanese U18 team.
FIBA Asia: Tell us about your preparations?
Sato: Most of the players are playing in High School competitions right now. Therefore, the players are in game condition. We just need a few days of training together and we can be ready for the FIBA Asia U18 Championship.
FIBA Asia: What has been the focus in the preparations?
Sato: The main focus in the preparation process is to prepare the players with strong heart and strong desire to win. Most of the Asian countries play with strong hearts. Our players must chase the ball really hard, and we must also fight for every play. Getting better in techniques alone would not help the team win game at this level.
FIBA Asia: There are quite a few players from the team that played in U16. Is that good experience?
Sato: I think it was very good experience for the players that played in U16. I think that the players gained confidence by finishing 3rd place in the U16 tournament. They need to prove that they have developed and utilize their experience in this tournament.
FIBA Asia: What do you think is the strength of the team? How do you plan to build on it?
Sato: The strength of our team is aggressive defense. We would play aggressive defense, and contain opponents’ offense as much as possible. We would force turnovers to our opponents from various defensive systems. We need to run and score quick baskets as much as possible.
FIBA Asia: What do you think are the weaknesses? How do you plan to overcome?
Sato: Our weakness would be lack of size. We do not have a lot of center players. Therefore, I expect that we would face a lot of problem with rebounding. For defensive rebounds, we need to screen out opponents from the paint area, and do not give second chance. On the other hand, we would not have much chance getting offensive boards, so we need to take clear shot and score basket high percentage.
FIBA Asia: What do you think of the Draw?
Sato: I did not worry too much about the draw except for the fact to know who we are playing. I think when we are playing at this level, it is not important who we play against. It is all about how we play with our style. There are not any easy groups or any teams that we could beat 100%. We just have to play our best in every game.
S Mageshwaran / FIBA Asia