MANILA, Philippines – Japan enjoyed a triumph at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 as it finished first among Asian teams in the Final Standings. After hosting the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021, they will now be competing in the Olympics for the second time in 48 years.
Even though Yuta Tabuse, a basketball hero in Japan, achieved a lot throughout his career, he was never able to participate in the Olympics as a player. He was able to watch AKATSUKI JAPAN’s triumph at the most recent World Cup in his capacity as a commentator, and he was overjoyed for his brothers.
The veteran acknowledged that he was the first NBA player born in Japan.
The national squad had the opportunity to fight against European teams, but Tabuse noted that they had difficulty matching their caliber. They suffered heavy defeats, including losses against Latvia by 40 points and Serbia by 16 points.
But now, he observed, the Japanese national team can not only compete with but outperform elite European teams, demonstrating the extraordinary rise in the caliber of Japanese basketball.
Tabuse was especially pleased with the team’s recent triumphs over strong opposition, which highlighted the significant development of Japanese basketball.
Makoto Hiejima and Yuta Watanabe, two players who went on to play important roles in the 2023 World Cup squad, were teammates of Tabuse while he was still in Serbia. He keeps a close relationship with his teammates and is a well-known character in Japanese basketball.
With the tournament being held in Japan, which offered tremendous incentive from the enthusiastic support of people and supporters, Tabuse sent them his best wishes and encouragement before the competition.
After the competition, Tabuse complimented them for their commitment and hard work and expressed his enormous delight in their success. With a skilled and young core ready to represent Japan in a variety of events, including the FIBA Asia Cup 2025 Qualifiers, which start in February of next year, the future of Japanese basketball seems bright. Along with other tough teams like Mongolia, Guam, and basketball superpower China, Japan is assigned to Group C.
During these forthcoming games, Tabuse is eager to watch the next wave of Japanese talent emerge.
“The Japan national team is going to be younger, so I hope the young guys have fun,” he said. “Now, their motivation is to become national team players and represent Japan in the Olympics, which is a great goal for them. I hope every player has a valuable opportunity to showcase their skills.”
The 43-year-old also took some time to reflect on his own 2015 Asia Cup journey. Japan’s performance in that competition was its best in the 21st century for the Asia Cup. With game averages of 5.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 3.0 assists, Tabuse made a significant contribution.
He reflected, “That was a lot of fun, playing against such strong teams in Asia. We made it to the Semi-Finals in China, right? Against the Philippines,” he remembered. It’s interesting that he remembered this while performing his duties as a Japanese commentator for the Finals at the Mall of Asia Arena in the Philippines.
Tabuse almost ran into a friendly rival from the Asia Cup, who he enjoyed battling against, while he was in Manila for the World Cup’s Final Phase.
“The point guard, number seven. Jayson Castro. That’s my favorite player, man!” said Tabuse. “I played against him, matched up with him, and, oh my god, he was such a good player. I saw him [at the World Cup], but I didn’t have a chance to talk to him. But back in those days, man, he was so good.”
The Asia Cup has consistently provided the ideal stage for showcasing the abilities of the region’s top athletes, including Tabuse and Castro. Tabuse, a seasoned veteran, had a crucial message to share with the striving youth given the fact that more and more talented young players are appearing every year:
“Basketball is getting bigger and bigger now, so just give it your all and strive to achieve your goals. Keep working hard and savor every moment of the game!”