JINAN, China (2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship for Women): Japan became the first FIBA Asia team – and the only team so far – to qualify for two successive FIBA World U17 Championships for Women, when they beat Chinese Taipei in the semifinals of the 2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship for Women on Saturday.
A day later, coach Japan went on to beat another East Asian team Korea and win the gold, thus healing the wounds of the defeat suffered at the hands of China in the gold medal game at 1st FIBA Asia U16 Championship for Women at Pune (India) two years ago.
Yutaka Mizutani, one of the dynamic members of the Japan Basketball Association think-tank and the Director of International Affairs at the JBA spoke to this website on the import of this win and its impact on the future of Japanese basketball.
“Qualifying for the World Championship is exciting enough. Winning the gold is a double bonanza,” he beamed.
FIBA Asia: How important is this qualifying for Japan basketball?
Mizutani: Very much. As you are aware, Japanese basketball has faced quite a few stumbling blocks in the recent past. Therefore, this qualifying for the FIBA World U17 Championship for Women is very important for us.
We feel justified in our development program. Having a program is one thing, but I think the best index to judge the success of a development program is only results. We monitor the progress of the players and program on a regular basis, but at the end of the day it is the results that matter.
Only results add credibility to the development program. Yes, we might have not reached the ultimate goal of the program, but we will at least know where we stand depending upon the results.
FIBA Asia: Can you tell us a little more on the program?
Mizutani: We have clear cut target at each stage for each program. We draw out time-based training based and evaluate the players to prepare the teams.
For this event (2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship for Women), we started preparing in the month of May 2011 and had about five camps of various durations before we arrived at the final 12.
We have a strong school system in Japan. Sometimes this clashes with our program and we have to adjust. But we are talking to the schools and trying to convince them that the National development program is the most important thing for Japan basketball.
FIBA Asia: Do you also have overseas tours?
Mizutani: Yes of course. There is no way we can better without knowing in the rest of the world.
This year we took the Japan university team to Turkey where we got a firsthand analysis of where we stand in terms of European standards. We play regular friendly games against teams in Australia, but that’s more on the senior level.
We need to increase and improve the exposure trips in the younger age groups, but the plans are in place.
FIBA Asia: What is the target of this development program?
Mizutani: Well, the target is simple, but it is lofty, long-term and requires a lot of time.
We aim to make Japan a major force in international basketball. This is the commitment of the current JBA leadership under former Prime Minister of Japan Mr. Taro Aso.
At all levels, we are finding out and fixing the problems with our teams.
In some cases, the problems are minor, which are easily and immediately resolved.
In some others, the problems are systemic, which need patience and commitment and a long term program. And we are committed to solving these issues too.
FIBA Asia: Any other comments?
Mizutani: Yes. On behalf of JBA, I want to thank FIBA Asia and its board for their tremendous support. I want to thank them for keeping their faith in us and hope we can continue to play a contributing role in the development of basketball in our region
S Mageshwaran / FIBA Asia