TOKYO (FIBA Asia Championship for Women/FIBA World Championship for Women) - Japan coach Tomohide Utsumi won't take anything for granted when his team head to the Thailand's capital of Bangkok next month (27 October-3 November) in pursuit of another FIBA Asia Championship for Women medal and the even bigger lure of a potential ticket for the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women.
Whilst Japan have had something of a monopoly on the bronze medal in recent years within the Asian zone, the coach has warned that the traditional powerhouses of China, Korea and Japan will need to be on their toes if they want to avoid the crushing disappointment of missing out on a trip to Turkey next year.
"I think Chinese Taipei have energetic players and good strength," said Utsumi.
"So it is very possible they will be in the top three."
Such caution is well advised and should sharpen the focus of his players not only to watch their backs, but to also aim for a new shade of metal hanging around their necks - even if he is expecting a number of new faces to be lining up once he chooses his final roster.
"Our goal is always to be crowned champions," he explained.
"We have good enough ability to become a champion team.
"Some experienced players have left the team and younger players have been chosen.
"In fact half of players (practicing) are new, so we are probably going to become a new team."
Utsumi also stressed that whilst personnel may change in the final shake-up prior to the tournament tipping off, his coaching ethos and approach to the competition is unlikely to be altered much.
"There are no big differences," he reiterated.
"I want just want to increase the accuracy of our offense, use our quickness and strategically, I want to make good use of our good point guard players."
Despite the warnings of the threat posed by Chinese Taipei, the likelihood remains that Japan will have to try and get past China and Korea if they want to reach the podium summit and that will require Utsumi successfully pitting his wits against his coaching rivals.
"The China head coach is an experienced coach," he said of Tom Maher.
"He was coach for Great Britain and also for the Chinese national team at the Olympics in Beijing.
"The head coach of Korea has no experience as a national team head coach, but he has passion and he can utilise each of his players' character for his team."
In fact, the quality of the competition between the trio is so intense, that Utsumi believes it makes preparation for games at the global level much more straightforward.
He insisted: "I don’t think there is a big difference between (our approach to) Asian Championship games and World Championship games."
Utsumi and Japan will be doing everything in their power to continue testing their preparation for games at the global level when they step out in Bangkok on 27 October, eager to cement their place at the World Championship for Women next September.
photo Getty Images
photo Getty images
photo Getty Images