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Basketball - 07. November 2013.

JPN - Oga and the Land of the Rising Stars

The long-time face of the national team and captain of the squad didn't know if the day would come when she'd celebrate a title triumph at a FIBA Asia Championship for Women.

The 31-year-old finally did on Sunday night in Bangkok when Japan beat Korea, 65-43.

"We're the first winner (from Japan) since 1970," Oga said.

"That's a long time, 43 years.

"So we're all excited. Everyone is happy.

"We made it to the Final 10 years ago and got second place.

"Now we've won it. We had great teamwork."

From start to finish at the tournament, Japan revealed themselves not just as a talented side that could win, but one that could do so with flair.

They also proved time and time again that in terms of mental fortitude, they had no equals.

"China is good, Korea is good and Chinese Taipei are good," Oga said.

"We had respect for all of them.

"But we wanted to show Japanese pride and style. So now everyone knows about it."

If the common held view was that Japan could never reach the top in Asia or be a force at FIBA World Championships for Women or Olympic Games because of a lack of big, powerful players in the front court, that no longer is the case.

Japan were strong in the backcourt again with Oga and point guard Asami Yoshida, and they had a terrific wing in Michiko Miyamoto, a player who nailed 43.2% (19 of 44) shots from long range.

But they also had more than enough size and skill in the low post to conquer Korea, China and Chinese Taipei.

Ramu Tokashiki, a 1.92m center who is just 22 years of age, is athletic and dominates on both ends of the floor.

Her 20 points and 12 rebounds in a pivotal last Preliminary Round game against China, and 20 points and 18 boards in the Final against Korea, left no doubt about the best player in Asia.

On offense, she can play outside on the perimeter and either put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket or make terrific, defense-splitting passes.

Japan's other stalwart inside is 1.85m Yuka Mamiya.

A gifted power forward/center who possesses a feathery shooting touch, Mamiya and Tokashiki both made the 'Best Five' at the end of the tournament, along with Yoshida.

"Our inside players are good and our outside players are good," Oga said.

Japan had a lot of fun at the FIBA Asia Championship for Women.

Whenever a player made a field goal, be it a lay-up or a jump shot, the person sitting at the end of the bench stood up, ran to the player who was sitting next to the coach and started giving two-handed high-fives to all of her teammates.

There is a lot to like about this team.

"The coach (Tomohide Utsumi) is very nice and his heart is good," Oga said.

"Everyone likes him.

"Everyone likes their teammates, the staff, and everyone likes the Japanese, and the country.

"We have a nice team."

Oga has a big year coming up.

"Yes," she answered, when asked if she was already looking forward to the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women in Turkey.

Oga then started talking about a new opportunity she has coming up in China.

She is going to play for WCBA club Shanxi.

"I will go to the WCBA this year and my head coach is Lucas Mondelo, the Spain coach," she said.

Mondelo and Spain won EuroBasket Women 2013 and will also be at the World Championship.

"After a week, I'll go to China and I'm really excited.

"I want to learn more and more under him and develop my skills."

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photos Janos Schmidt 

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