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[ODDS and EVENS] Yudai Baba Embraces a Bigger Role on the Japan National Team

Returning to the B.League before the 2023-24 season as a veteran leader for the Nagasaki Velca has helped Yudai Baba become a go-to scorer for Akatsuki Japan.



Yudai Baba
Japan's Yudai Baba shoots a 3-pointer against China in a 2025 FIBA Asia Cup qualifier on February 25 at Ariake Coliseum. (FIBA.BASKETBALL)

Read the full story on SportsLook - [ODDS and EVENS] Yudai Baba Embraces a Bigger Role on the Japan National Team

Roles and goals go hand in hand. Take Yudai Baba, for example. 

An expanded role for Baba on the Japan men's basketball national team is one of the building blocks of head coach Tom Hovasse's vision for the team. 

Against China in a 2025 FIBA Asia Cup qualifier on Sunday, February 25, that specific goal's implementation was on display. Baba was a game-changing presence for Akatsuki Japan in a 76-73 triumph at Ariake Coliseum.

There is a direct link between Baba's dynamic effort against China and a discussion he had with Hovasse about the 2023-24 pro basketball calendar.

In short, Hovasse envisioned Baba becoming more of a featured scorer for the national team. And after Japan defeated China to improve to 2-0 in Group C first-round qualifiers, the coach recalled that he believed Baba would benefit from being able to further develop his offensive repertoire as a go-to scorer. (More on that below.)

In his game-high 24-point performance against China, Baba showed that his return to the B.League to play for the Nagasaki Velca in the prime of his career is paying dividends. 

Yudai Baba
Japan's Yudai Baba drives to the basket in the second quarter against China. (©SANKEI)

Yudai Baba Plays Starring Role in Japan's Victory

After a dynamic effort that included 4-for-6 shooting from 3-point range and 8-for-8 at the free-throw line along with four rebounds, two assists and a steal in more than 37 minutes, Baba offered his thoughts on Japan's performance.

"We started shooting well in the first half, and in the second half we attacked well and were able to give the team momentum," Baba was quoted as saying by NHK.

With an explosive first step and playing at both ends of the court with abundant energy, Baba paced Japan with nine first-half points versus China in a game that was knotted at 38-38 entering the third quarter.

Presenting the view that Akatsuki Japan is a work in progress and has not yet reached its potential, Baba told reporters, "We have yet to play the kind of basketball we want to play, and we will be facing stronger and stronger opponents."

At the upcoming Paris Olympics, the 12-team men's tournament will tip off on July 27, and Japan is one of eight nations to already qualify. The others: Australia, Canada, host France, Germany, Serbia, South Sudan and the United States.

Noting that the competition calendar shifts back to the B.League through the end of May, Baba highlighted this focus after the China game.

"We will now return to league play," he told reporters, "but we will take it one day at a time, and we will work together to do our best."

Continue reading the full story on SportsLook.



Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven

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