THE absence of defensive players hampered Japan’s quest to duplicate its quarterfinal finish from two years ago in the Fiba-Asia Championship in Manila.
Once a powerhouse in Asian basketball before the emergence of teams from the Middle East, the cagers from “The Land from the Rising Sun” saw its quarterfinal bid vanish after they lost to Jordan on the final day of the second round.
In Wuhan, Japan reached the quarterfinals after sweeping the preliminaries but lost to Korea in the battle for a spot in the last four.
Japan had an even better performance in the 2012 Fiba-Asia Cup when it finished second to Iran in the tournament formerly known as the Stankovic Cup.
But Japan was not as impressive this year in Manila, with its only win coming against Hong Kong in the preliminaries.
Japan coach Kimikazu Suzuki blamed the absence of defensive players in their roster for their poor showing.
“Our defense was different from the last team,” said Japan coach Kimikazu Suzuki, referring to the 2011 team in Wuhan.
Suzuki added that the team lost three players from the Fiba-Asia Cup team. While they have scorers in the likes Kosuke Kanamaru, Naoto Tsuji, and naturalized player JR Sakuragi, Suzuki said their defense as a team was not impressive and their rebounding discrepancy as one of the culprits.
“We had changes in some of the members and we missed some of the defenders. We also had to focus on offense but our offense starts from the defense,” said Suzuki.
Japan will now try to salvage ninth place as it enters the classification stage.