The Japanese men’s national basketball team aims to become the first Asian squad to win a game in the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Standing in their way is the imposing Latvian team coached by Ainars Bagatskis.
Japan and Latvia will open their respective campaigns in the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament on Monday in Belgrade, Serbia. The two teams are aiming to pull big upsets to earn a trip to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
Japan Unfazed of Tall Odds Against Them
Japan head coach Kenji Hasegawa isn’t fazed by the challenge. He believes his guys will step up big and will give powerhouse teams a run for their money. All they need to do is play crisp and disciplined basketball.
“As Japan, we would like to use our outside shooting abilities, but opponents are fully aware of our team’s strengths,” Hasegawa told FIBA.com. “When the opponents put pressure on us, our feet stopped and did not connect to the next play.”
Another area of concern for Japan is rebounding. Hasegawa wants the team to be aggressive on the boards in order to prevent opponents from coming back from huge deficits.
Japan will heavily rely on versatile center Kosuke Takeuchi, as well as the potent offensive duo of power forward Joji Takeuchi and shooting guard Makoto Hiejima. Veteran point guard Yuta Tabuse will provide steady decision-making on the court, while 21-year-old Yuta Watanabe will utilize his fresh legs and NCAA Division 1 experience.
Height is Might for Latvia Despite Missing Kristaps Porzingis
On the Latvian side, coach Ainars Bagatskis has two seven-footers at his disposal, and might even pair them at key stretches during games.
Serviceable big man Kaspars Berzins has played for the Latvian national basketball team since 2005 and is the team’s main rim protector. Anzejs Pasecniks, who will be making his senior national team debut in Belgrade, will be his main frontcourt partner.
Japan dodged a bullet when New York Knicks sophomore Kristaps Porzingis announced he will not be participating in this month’s OQT. The 7-foot-3 phenom said he will spend his summer in the weight room to get stronger. He will also be working out with new Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek.
“Right now he is focused on his long-term development,” Porzingis’s agent Daniel Rohme told New York Post. “[He] will spend his summer in the States vigorously training.”
Japan vs Latvia Live Stream and Schedule
Japan and Latvia will face off in Group B of the Belgrade QQT at 6:00 pm GMT on July 4.Fans can catch the action through online live stream Live Basketball TV.
Both teams will then play Czech Republic. Only two of those teams will advance and go up against Puerto Rico, Angola or Serbia. Only one of the these six teams will qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics.