Just days after kicking off its preparation for the FIBA World Cup, the Japanese men’s national team was jolted by some startlingly bad news out of the blue.
Japan learned Tuesday that Yuki Togashi, the team’s starting point guard, was diagnosed with a broken bone in his right hand and will be sidelined for two months — likely ruling him out of the World Cup.
According to the Chiba Jets Funabashi, Togashi’s B. League club, he suffered the injury during practice on Saturday, the first day of Japan’s training camp at the National Training Center.
A Japan Basketball Association spokesperson did not specify how Togashi suffered the injury. Officials have reviewed the results of a medical examination.
“Obviously, it’s very sad news to us, too,” Japan head coach Julio Lamas said during Wednesday’s media availability at the training center. “He’s an irreplaceable presence for this team, and thinking of how he feels right now, it only makes us feel sad.”
Togashi is one of the team’s core members and among the most popular players on the national squad. He started in all 10 games he played during Japan’s 12-game stint in Asian qualifying.
This offseason, the 2018-19 B. League MVP became the first Japanese player to receive a contract for an annual salary of over ¥100 million in the domestic professional circuit.
The JBA has not yet announced the full training camp roster, which will have 16 to 18 players. The JBA will officially reveal the roster Tuesday.
“His speed and ability to attack the paint are what he can take advantage of at the global level,” shooting guard Makoto Hiejima said of Togashi. “Now we’ve lost those things, and I will have (more) chances to play as a point guard.”
The Akatsuki Five, who earned a berth to the World Cup on their own for the first time in 21 years, will have a minicamp in Nagoya from August 1-6, before playing warmup games against New Zealand, Germany, Argentina and Tunisia.
Lamas, who guided his native Argentina to a fourth-place finish at the 2012 London Olympics, insisted his squad will have to move on without Togashi, saying he wants the player to concentrate on his recovery.
“We’ve got to prepare ourselves the best we can in the five weeks given (ahead of the World Cup),” Lamas said.
Japan is likely to have its “Big Three” — Yuta Watanabe, Rui Hachimura and naturalized Japanese Nick Fazekas — on the same roster for the first time during the World Cup.
Hiejima, who played in the NBA Summer League as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans, said Japan will be able to compete on par against the world’s toughest opponents if it plays in sync.
“We’ll have Yuta, Rui and Nick all together for the first time,” Hiejima said. “And I want to find out what I can do to help the team. We have enough firepower to play well. So we would like to prepare as well as we can.”
Hachimura and Watanabe, who are both part of NBA franchises, the Washington Wizards and Memphis Grizzlies, respectively, will be limited to a total of 28 days of national team activities before the World Cup due to league regulations.
The two are scheduled to begin practice with the squad from the Nagoya minicamp.