ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia (22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship): Japan came into the 22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship as underdogs and exceeded all expectations with a stupendous show.
Coach Hisao Sato, who has been at the helm of the team for more than two years now, is a man of erudition in expressing his opinion.
The 62-year-old Meisei HS teacher in Miyagi prefecture spoke to this website on the future of Japanese basketball, the performance and prospects of the Japanese team here and a lots more in this exclusive conversation.
FIBA Asia: What is your overall impression of the 22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship?
Hisao: After seeing the teams’ performance here, I strongly feel that level of Asian basketball as a whole is on the rise. Especially, Weast Asian teams and India have developed their players in recent years.
However, I feel that Japan is a little bit struggling to develop the team to the next level. We came in to this Championship to qualify for the World Championship, and we need to play in the World Championship to experience the World’s top level. We need this experience to improve our national team for the future.
FIBA Asia: Did you find any new players who have the potential for the future for Japan?
Hisao: All of the players that I have selected for this team have the potential for the future for our National team. Therefore, I hope that players would learn from this Championship and take their experience to the next category in order to have stronger National team.
Yuta Watanabe is the top prospect in Japan, and definitely one of the best big players in Japan. But, from this Championship, he needs to develop more in various areas to play against big players in Asia as well as the World. For Japan, it is urgent to strengthen and develop big players to play equally against top teams.
FIBA Asia: Have the youngsters in Japan team improved from the time they started training to now?
Hisao: Yes. The players are still in learning stage, but they have shown tremendous development throughout this Championship. They might not be a very talented group, but they have learnt to play as a team, and they have shown development mentally. I am satisfied how they are performing but I still feel that they have more potential.
FIBA Asia: How do you look at the future of Japan basketball?
Hisao: In Japan, players start playing basketball at age of 6. However, talented athletes are playing baseball and football. Those two sport take most of the talented athletes. The main problem is that basketball team has not been successful in international Championships compared to those two sports. Our men’s national team needs to become a team that could be successful in international Championships. I feel that we have potential, but have not unfulfilled our strengths.
FIBA Asia: What other things needs to be done?
Hisao: As I have mentioned before, we need to develop big players. Currently, that is our weakness in every level compared to the powerhouse such as China, Korea, and West Asian countries.
S Mageshwaran / FIBA Asia