Kawabuchi chosen as new Japan Basketball Association president

by

Staff Writer

Japan 2024 Task Force co-chairman Saburo Kawabuchi was officially elected as the new president of the Japan Basketball Association during an extraordinary council and board meeting on Wednesday.

The JBA also approved six new board members, including Kawabuchi, in the same meetings.

A pair of former female Olympians in Kiyoko Ono and Yuko Mitsuya were appointed as vice presidents. J. League managing director Masaaki Okawa took the managing director/secretary general positions. Okawa will also serve as the head of the Japan Professional Basketball League, which will begin play in the 2016-17 season.

Ichiro Yamamoto, executive officer of JX Holdings, Inc., and Yoshiyuki Mano, a professor of sport sciences at Waseda University, are the other two.

Task force member and lawyer Masaki Sakaida and tax counselor Isao Sunaga will serve as auditors.

Those members had been recommended by FIBA, the sport’s world governing body that suspended the JBA from international activities since last November because the JBA lacked governance and failed to unify the NBL and bj-league as a single entity before the Oct. 31, 2014, deadline.

At a news conference after a task force meeting and the aforementioned JBA meetings at a Tokyo hotel, Kawabuchi said that the board members would eventually increase. (Okawa hinted that they would eventually seek to add basketball-related people).

Kawabuchi added that it would take time for the once-sinking ship of Japanese basketball to have smooth sailing, but now with the new system the winds would be pushing the ship forward. And he is sure that the ship would ultimately “take off in the air in the next 10, 20 years.”

“As well as the support from the JOC, Japan Sports Association and Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, we are lucky to have had the backup of FIBA (to realize the reform),” Kawabuchi said.

Kawabuchi proudly noted that new board members now include two female vice presidents and people from outside of basketball, which is unprecedented in Japan sports.

“It represents the birth of the new basketball circle,” Kawabuchi said.

Said Mitsuya, who was a part of the Japan’s bronze medal-winning volleyball team in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics: “I feel a heavy responsibility. But as a person that was raised through sports, I couldn’t overlook the situation in basketball.

“Sometimes, when you start a new thing, your past experience and knowledge could actually disturb you. I would like to give the best I have to improve the lack of governance.”

Mitsuya has experience running companies as well.

The 79-year-old Ono, a former member of the House of Councilors who guided Team Japan to a bronze medal in the gymnastics team competition at the 1964 Tokyo Games, said, “I would like to help the development of basketball here as much as I can.”

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After the news conference, there was also an announcement for the provisional squad for the Japan women’s national team, which includes star players like Ramu Tokashiki and Asami Yoshida.

All Japanese national teams are currently banned from international activities, but the female team will start training in case the JBA’s suspension is lifted at the FIBA Central Board meeting on June 18-20.

The FIBA Asia Championship for Women will be held in Wuhan, China, from Aug. 29 to Sept. 5, and Japan would try to gain a ticket for next year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics in it.

The 192-cm Tokashiki, who signed with the Seattle Storm, is scheduled to leave the WNBA team if she’s called up by the national team.

Meanwhile, former WNBA player and famous guard Yuko Oga was left off the squad.

Japan head coach Tomohide Utsumi explained the reason, saying that the 32-year-old Oga didn’t play the entire 2014-15 season, plus he thought Oga has gradually declined in terms of stamina and technique since the world championships last year.

The team will begin a training camp in early June.