Japan has never been a powerhouse on the global basketball stage, and hosting part of the 2023 World Cup was something that they wanted to help put themselves on the map. Considered one of the better teams in Asia, Japan wanted to prove themselves on the world stage, and they somehow did that even though they didn’t make it out of the Round Robin stage.
In dramatic fashion, Japan came back from 18 down to beat the Lauri Markkanen-led Finland team to help Japan win their first World Cup game in 17 years.
Yuta Watanabe, one of the stars of Japan, reminisced recently about his experience this past summer.
“That was really fun. We have great fans in Okinawa. We worked really hard. We beat Finland, Cape Verde, and Venezuela. Those are really good teams, so that was really fun and I’m really excited for the Olympics.”
Currently No. 26 in FIBA rankings, Japan hopes to make some noise in the Paris 2024 Olympics. Obviously, on paper, the team is not on par with juggernauts like the United States, France or Germany, but Watanabe hopes Japan will have an auspicious future, even after he retires.
“If I’m going to retire in five, six years in a realistic world, we [probably] not going to be one of the top teams in the world in five years, but I think at least we will be good enough to compete against those great teams. I mean we did a good job against Germany and Australia in the World Cup. We lost by 20 but we won the second half. I think in five, six years we gonna be there to compete against those teams.”