09/12/2018 | News release | Distributed by Public on 09/12/2018 16:31
TOKYO (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers) - The future is here for the Japanese national team as rising stars Rui Hachimura and Yuta Watanabe are set to banner the Akatsuki Five as they face Kazakhstan.
Both Hachimura and Watanabe are currently based in the United States pursuing their respective careers in the NCAA and the NBA, but they jumped at the chance to don Japan's kit in the fourth window of the Asian Qualifiers.
|Japan 12-man roster against Kazakhstan on 13 September 2018|
|Yudai Baba||Ira Brown||Rui Hachimura||Tenketsu Harimoto|
|Makoto Hiejima||Atsuya Ota||Ryusei Shinoyama||Joji Takeuchi|
|Daiki Tanaka||Yuki Togashi||Naoto Tsuji||Yuta Watanabe|
Hachimura was utterly splendid for Japan in the previous window, playing a huge part in their shocking upset win over erstwhile unbeaten Australia, 79-78, and in the Akatsuki Five's convincing win over Chinese Taipei, 108-68, that clinched their spot in Group F. The 20-year-old phenom averaged 18.5 points and 5.0 rebounds while shooting just under 60% from the field.
Watanabe, for his part, last saw action for the national team at the FIBA OQT 2016, putting up 7.0 points, 4.0 boards, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. The lanky 23-year-old 6ft 9in (2.06m) forward should prove to be a good complement to Hachimura, especially with his length and defensive prowess.
Naturalized player Nick Fazekas, who was instrumental in Japan's two wins in the third window, will sit out this game due to an injury, but Ira Brown will take his spot at the frontline. The 36-year-old Brown has been one of Japan's nest rebounders in this competition, and he has not scored fewer than 10 points in any single game so far. Though he is nowhere near as big as Fazekas, the 6ft 4in (1.93m) power forward can still find other ways to make an impact for Japan.
They play Kazakhstan at the Baluan Sholak Sports Palace in Almaty before heading back home to host Iran at the sold out Ota City General Gymnasium on 17 September.