Star players Ramu Tokashiki and Asami Yoshida are the headliners for Hayabusa Japan for the upcoming FIBA Asia Women’s Championship.
The Japan Basketball Association announced the 12-woman roster on Friday, and Japan enters the tournament in Wuhan, China, as the reigning champion.
Japan captured the continental title for the first time in 43 years at the previous championships in Thailand in 2013.
The upcoming tournament begins on Aug. 29 and runs through Sept. 5.
Two years ago, Tokashiki was the tournament’s leading scorer and MVP. Now a rookie for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, the 24-year-old forward again heads into battle as Japan’s top competitor.
Tokashiki has played in all 26 contests for the Storm, making 12 starts. She’s averaged 8.3 points and 3.1 rebounds.
Due to her national team commitment, Tokashiki will miss four Storm games.
“We were aware and in full support of Taku’s (Tokashiki) commitment to the Japanese national team,” Storm president and general manager Alisha Valavanis said in a statement issued by the team. “We wish her the best of luck and look forward to her return to the Storm in September.”
Tokashiki is scheduled to fly to Japan on Sunday to participate in the national team’s final training camp before the continental championship.
Yoshida, who missed the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women due to leg injuries, is back on the national team as a centerpiece. The 165-cm point guard racked up 7.3 points and 4.4 assists per game and was selected to the all-tournament team at the 2013 Asia Championship. Yoshida, a JX-Eneos Sunflowers player, was named the WJBL’s 2011-12 MVP.
Meanwhile, 37-year-old Ai Mitani returns to the national team for the first time since 2011. The 181-cm Fujitsu Red Wave player made 43.2 percent of her 3-point shots in the 2014-15 WJBL season.
Shooting guard Mio Shinozaki, also of Fujitsu, who helped Japan place fourth in July’s University Games in South Korea, is set to make her debut on the top-flight team.
The Asia Championship will also serve as a qualifier for next year’s Summer Olympics, with the winner earning a berth in the 2016 Rio Games.
The second- and third-place finishers will be given spots in the world qualifying tournament (venue and dates will be announced later).
Japan begins its bid to defend its title with an Aug. 29 game against South Korea.
Japan women’s squad: Ai Mitani, forward; Yuki Miyazawa, forward; Yuka Mamiya, center; Mika Kurihara, guard; Maki Takada, forward; Chinatsu Yamamoto, guard; Ramu Tokashiki, forward; Mio Shinozaki, guard; Asami Yoshida, guard; Rui Machida, guard; Sanae Motokawa, guard; Asako O, center.
Head coach: Tomohide Utsumi
Smith returning to Cavs
J.R. Smith looked around and realized there was no place like Cleveland.
The free-wheeling and enigmatic shooter has agreed to re-sign with the Cavaliers, a person familiar with the decision told the Associated Press on Thursday night. Smith, who declined his $6.8 million player option shortly after the season, considered other options before returning to Cleveland, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the contract has not yet been signed.
Smith came to the Cavs along with Iman Shumpert in a trade with the New York Knicks last season. Smith averaged 12.7 points in 46 regular-season games with Cleveland, and seemed to fit in nicely as well as bond with star LeBron James.
During the playoffs, Smith was forced into a more prominent role following injuries to Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving and averaged 12.8 points in 18 games, starting four. He was also suspended for two games for hitting Celtics forward Jae Crowder in the face.
Smith announced his return on his Instagram account.
“It’s been a long ride this summer but I can say for sure, well worth the wait,” Smith said. “When I opted out of my contract, I wanted to understand the landscape of the NBA and where I fit best. The Cavaliers had things they needed to do in order to piece together a championship caliber roster. I ended up deciding that instead of potentially securing a larger deal elsewhere, I wanted to rejoin an incredible organization in pursuit of the ultimate goal, an NBA championship.”
The Cavs are still hoping to sign forward Tristan Thompson, a restricted free agent.
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