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TOKYO (FIBA U17 World Championship for Women) - Yuki Kato is preparing to step out at the FIBA U17 World Championship for Women for a second time with Japan and is looking forward to utilising the experience she gained from the event two years ago in Amsterdam.
The forward was the youngest player on the roster when Japan posted a scintillating run all the way to the Semi-Finals last time out and had to go up against players who were generally two years older than her.
Now the scenario will be reversed and Kato will be expected to draw upon what was an invaluable learning curve in the Netherlands and cement her role as one of the main leaders for Japan when the 2014 version gets underway.
"I remember that at the beginning of the training camp (before the 2012 tournament), I was very nervous," she recalled.
"But I just tried to think in a positive way and realised that age doesn't matter.
"It was my first-ever time visiting Europe and everything was new to me, both on and off the court.
"It was memorable seeing Amsterdam too, as the scenery was beautiful.
"This time I think I know what the younger players will be feeling and so I will be thinking back to my own experience.
"I think that means I will be able to take care of them and in doing that, I believe it can help the team."
Not that Kato herself is going to be satisfied with another run to the last four of the competition.
Ask her what the aim is when the curtain is raised at the tournament next month in Czech Republic and you can expect the answer to be emphatic.
"To be crowned a champion," declared Kato.
And you can't blame anyone involved in women's basketball in Japan to now be looking towards the top of the podium.
Everyone is still feeding off the buzz which still exists from Japan ending a title-drought of more than four decades at the FIBA Asia Championship for Women last year.
"We were very happy and excited about the great news of our senior team's success in Bangkok," smiled Kato.
The famous gold medal triumph in the Thai capital has given emerging young players even more reason to view their seniors as role models.
"Yes, my favourite player is Yuka Mamiya, since she is very tough on the court and I want to be just like her," revealed the teenager.
And Kato will be able to demonstrate how much progress she is making in her quest to emulate Mamiya when Japan step out against Australia, Mexico and Slovak Republic in Group C.
photos Janos Schmidt
photos Janos Schmidt