Star guard Yuki Togashi of the Chiba Jets and twin brothers Kosuke and Joji Takeuchi of the Tochigi Brex and Alvark Tokyo, respectively, headline the 15-man national team roster for an upcoming international exhibition series against Iran, the Japan Basketball Association announced on Tuesday.
Led by interim head coach Luka Pavicevic, the Akatsuki Five will play against the Middle East nation, which is the second-best Asian team in the latest FIBA rankings at 25th behind China (14).
The JBA parted ways with sideline supervisor Kenji Hasegawa at the end of November and appointed technical adviser Luka Pavicevic as interim bench boss until it hires a new head coach, which is expected to happen by the summer.
The two-game series against Iran, which will be played at Hokkaido Preferctural Sports Center in Sapporo on Feb. 10 and 11, will be the first international games for the men’s national team since Hasegawa’s resignation.
The squad, which was selected from a group of 68 players that were called up for short training camps in December and January, also features other B. League top performers, including sharpshooter Kosuke Kanamaru and Makoto Hiejima of the SeaHorses Mikawa, Daiki Tanaka of the Alvark, and naturalized citizen Ira Brown, a Sunrockers Shibuya forward.
The JBA and Pavicevic also chose some young fresh faces, including former Canadian NBL player Seiya Ando of the Akita Northern Happinets and collegiate phenom Yudai Baba of the University of Tsukuba.
Pavicevic, a Serbian who had previously served as a head coach for Montenegro, suggested during a news conference that he had a hard time selecting the right pieces for the puzzle to complete the roster. He said, however, that Japan has “quality players at small forward and shooting guard positions,” but hinted that there are issues at point guard for international competitions. He added that he actually did not have a big problem to choose his inside players because there were not many big men in the country.
“We have come to understand what we need to do to develop ourselves through the eyes of a top coach of the world,” JBA technical director Tomoya Higashino said of Pavicevic. “(Pavicevic) has implemented detailed stuff for our Japanese players to get better. We have come one step at a time, but we are satisfied with what we’ve done so far. It’ll be important that we’ll keep going one step at a time, but if we keep it up, I’m sure we are going to be where we want to be.”