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A new era begins for Japan under coach Lamas

TOKYO (FIBA Asia Cup 2017) - Julio Lamas is embracing his new role as the national coach of Japan.

The former Argentina boss, put in charge of the Far East side earlier this year, has a clear vision of how he wants to build the Japanese team into a formidable side for the FIBA Asia Cup and the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asia Qualifiers.

Julio Lamas (ARG) - photo courtesy of Japan Times
By the time of the 2020 Olympics, Lamas is hoping the squad will have taken a leap in quality and competitiveness.

"My aim is for Japan to play well, with intelligence, and that they play collectively on defense and offense," Lamas said to FIBA.basketball. "Speed is a natural characteristic of Japanese players, but we will also seek to develop the mental game. We'll have to figure out when the moment is to do each."

Japan played well at the FIBA Asia Cup 2015 in Changsha, reaching the Semi-Finals to earn a spot in last year's FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Serbia. In Belgrade, however, Japan lost both of their games and came up well short of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The Japanese Basketball Association (JBA) decided change tack.

"The plan we agreed on with the JBA, which has enterprising directors that hold a great work capacity, aims to develop an organized program that allows us to achieve progress," Lamas said. "We'll try to detect young Japanese youngsters or children of Japanese people that live in the United States to add them to our project.

"We'll try to implement a game style that is characteristic of ourselves while incorporating concepts that FIBA international basketball requires. Japan is currently No. 48 in the NIKE FIBA World Ranking and we will go out and compete with national teams that are ranked above us.

"We must reach the point that all players are committed and support the project that JBA has for the national team."

Lamas recently arrived in Japan to take up the challenge. He is right now putting the Japanese players through their paces, getting them ready for the FIBA Asia Cup that tips off August 8 in Beirut.

"We're training well," he said. "The group has a good attitude and energy, and seems to be intelligent. We'll play two friendly games against Uruguay on July 29 and 30 in Tokyo. Then, we'll travel to Spain, where we will play two other games against Venezuela on August 4 and 5, in preparation for the Asia Cup. We'll see how they begin to assimilate the style during those games."

Lamas and Japan are going into the Asia Cup with one eye on World Cup Asia Qualifiers, which get underway in November. Japan's First Round games will be against Chinese Taipei, Australia and the Philippines in Group B.

"We'll start off with quite a complicated group, where we will face Australia, which is something new in terms of competing with Asian countries," Lamas said.

Both Australia and New Zealand are to play in the FIBA Asia Cup for the first time when it's staged in Beirut and then the World Cup Asia Qualifiers. The Filipinos will be tough opposition, too. Lamas coached Argentina to a narrow victory over the Philippines at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, so he appreciates how significant that challenge is.

"They have an extensive tradition at the top level of the international game," Lamas said. "The Philippines are a continental powerhouse. And we recently lost against Chinese Taipei. We have an intense work plan to be well prepared for November, when our objective of reaching the World Cup begins."

Being as strong as possible when Tokyo 2020 arrives is the ultimate aim.

"The 2020 Olympic Games are the main goal," Lamas said. "However, we'll try to qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019.

"Our first challenge will be to play our best at the FIBA Asia Cup in Lebanon. This tournament will allow me to get to know the players in the competition, as well as to see how the game system that we'll be implementing pans out."

Source: http://www.fiba.com/asiacup/2017/news/a-new-era-begins-for-japan-under-coach-lamas

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