Basketball

FIBA task force positive on Tokyo 2020 berth for Japan

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Japan’s men’s basketball team is on the right track to earn a spot at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, FIBA task force co-chairman Ingo Weiss told a news conference on Sunday.

Weiss stressed that the Japan Basketball Association has fully lived up to the expectations of the Japan 2024 task force, which was formed in the wake of the JBA’s November 2014 suspension for poor governance.

One of the biggest changes to come as a result of the task force was a merger of the two top men’s leagues — the National Basketball League and bj-league — into the B. League, which launched in 2016. Another was the development of the men’s national team, which has not competed at the Olympics since the 1976 Games in Montreal.

The suspension was officially lifted by FIBA in August 2015, but the global governing body has not guaranteed Japan a spot at the Tokyo Olympics as it seeks improvements in the team’s performance. The Akatsuki Five have impressed in Asian qualifying for next summer’s FIBA World Cup in China, winning six in a row after starting their campaign 0-4.

Weiss said that FIBA has “fully been satisfied with the governance” the JBA has brought and there is “nothing” that the governing body of the sport in Japan has lacked.

Weiss, who serves as FIBA treasurer and is an executive committee member of the FIBA Central Board, said the organization has “fully been satisfied with the governance” of the JBA and expressed optimism that Japan will be granted a ticket to the Olympics at the Central Board’s March 2019 meeting in Cote d’Ivoire.

“I can’t talk the details too much,” the German told the reporters. “But we’ve been fond of the progress (of Japanese basketball) and I believe you all understood how satisfied we as FIBA are. With that being said, we are considering giving a spot (to Japan), but can’t say anything officially yet. However, it would be a great opportunity for Japanese basketball to be able to compete at the Olympics in Japan.

“We are certain that Saitama Super Arena for the five-man game and the three-man game in Aomi (Urban Sports Venue) would be hot spots during the Olympics. Elsewhere, the development of the Japanese (men’s) national team has been made favorably. It’s been seen with their (results) and we think that that’s going to be considered as a plus at the Central Board.”

Weiss added that the women’s national team, which has won three straight FIBA Asian Cups and advanced to the round of 16 at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, has nothing to worry in terms of securing a spot at the Olympics on home soil.

Meanwhile, task force co-chairman Saburo Kawabuchi said that he would ask FIBA to extend its monitoring period a few more years to ensure Japanese basketball’s continued development.

“The monitoring would usually continue until 2020,” said Kawabuchi, who was appointed as JBA chairman in May 2015 before Yuko Mitsuya took over the position in June 2016. “But there’s another World Cup in 2023 and we are asking FIBA to continue to look after us until then. It’s grateful to hear that they have told us that we are doing good. But we have not clinched an Olympic berth and have to continue to do the best to develop (our national teams).”

Kawabuchi also expressed his grief and appreciation for Patrick Baumann, the former FIBA secretary general who died at 51 of a heart attack on Oct 14 during the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires.

“Secretary general Baumann had cared for Japanese basketball as if it was his own country,” the 82-year-old Kawabuchi said. “We were able to form the B. League and it was because of Mr. Baumann. He passed away so young, at age 51. I have no other words to express my feelings except it is so disappointing Both for Japanese basketball and the IOC, he was an irreplaceable person and we owe him a lot.”