Interview: Progress in Japanese basketball relies on perseverance-Xinhua

Interview: Progress in Japanese basketball relies on perseverance

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-04-03 19:54:00

By sportswriters Li Bowen, Wang Jingyu

BEIJING, April 3 (Xinhua) -- The progress of Japanese basketball in recent years is credited to perseverance, according to Akira Yamamoto, Senior Manager of the Youth and Technical Development Section of the Japanese Basketball Association (JBA).

In the 2023 Men's Basketball World Cup, Japan stood out as the only Asian team to earn a spot in the Paris Olympics, marking its first Olympic qualification on foreign soil since 1976. Additionally, the Japanese women's basketball team secured its place in Paris 2024 in February this year.

Yamamoto said in a written interview with Xinhua that the experience gained from the 2019 World Cup and the Tokyo Olympics has elevated the strength of Japanese men's basketball. Meanwhile, the Japanese women's team benefited from their silver medal win at the Tokyo Olympics, coupled with the dedication of coaches, staff and players.

He outlined several key factors behind this breakthrough: strategic leadership from the national coach, support from national staff, the involvement of NBA players, daily development of Japanese players through an enhanced domestic league, and international competition exposure.

The JBA supports its players' international play to foster global competition experience, with regular check-ins to monitor their progress. Japan boasts two NBA players, one in France, and several in NCAA Division 1 for men. On the women's side, players are active in Australia and Spain's leagues.

Japan's B.League currently allows each team to sign three international players and one Asian import. It is reported that the B.League plans to further relax restrictions on the number of appearances by foreign players.

Yamamoto believes that the presence of foreign players contributes greatly to improving the quality of the game and has a positive impact on the competitive performance of the Japanese players.

The influence of the manga "Slam Dunk" has significantly boosted basketball interest across Japanese society. As of 2023, Japan had over 570,000 registered basketball players, distributed across various age groups.

"We usually start U16 and U18 national team camps with approximately 30 players and after organizing several camps, we select final 12 players for each team," Yamamoto said.

Yamamoto highlighted the strong communication and collaboration among the JBA, the high school league and the college basketball, emphasizing the crucial role of campus leagues in nurturing talent.

"For the high school league, we are organizing the Top League and the Block League with top high school programs. Top League is for high schools that had won or finished at top rank in national championships. For the Block League, we divide 47 prefectures into 9 blocks and the top schools that are not playing in the Top League in each block participates in the Block League," said Yamamoto.

"For the college basketball, leagues are organized in 9 blocks as well. It is played during September to November. The competition format is different in each block. Also, there is national tournament where top teams from each block participate," he added.

Besides basketball, Japan's football and volleyball teams also have shown impressive performances in recent years. Both the men's and women's football teams are top contenders in Asia, with increasing global influence. Japanese men's volleyball team made history last year by reaching the top four in the FIVB World League and securing a spot in the Paris Olympics.

When asked about the similarities in the progress of the three sports in Japan, Yamamoto responded: "although we do not see a direct link, we believe that the High Performance Center initiatives of the Japanese Sports Council (JSC) have had a positive impact on the strategic planning of each organization."

Moreover, Yamamoto emphasized the importance of perseverance, stating it as something they are aware of in terms of developing their sports.

Expressing respect for Chinese basketball, Yamamoto said: "China's national teams have young and talented players. Let us work and develop together to raise the level of Asian basketball."