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Basketball Tournament Draws Announced for the Paris Olympics

The Japan men face 2023 Basketball World Cup champ Germany in its first group phase match in France, and the Japan women open against the United States.

The draws for the men's and women's basketball tournaments at the Paris Olympics were held on Tuesday, March 19 in Mies, Switzerland.

FIBA, basketball's world governing body, unveiled the group phase assignments for the 12-tournament fields. Japan is assigned to Group B in the men's competition and Group C in the women's event.

The 2024 Olympic Opening Ceremony is set for July 26 in Paris. 

A day later, the men's tournament tips off. World No 26 Akatsuki Japan first faces 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup champion Germany, the top-ranked team in the current world rankings, in Villeneuve-d'Ascq, a commune in the northern French city of Lille. 

Pierre Mauroy Stadium, one hour north of Paris by train, will host the group phase matches. The arena has a seating capacity of 27,000.

Led by head coach Tom Hovasse, the Japan men's team takes on world No 9 France on July 30 and the TBD winner of an Olympic qualifying tournament in Riga, Latvia, on August 2 in its other Group B matches.

The tourney in Latvia, from July 2-7, will feature Georgia, the Philippines, Latvia, Brazil, Cameroon and Montenegro.

"We don't know which team will win the Olympic qualifying tournament in Latvia yet, so we will wait until we get the results," Hovasse said in a statement.

He added, "We will think about it after we get the results, [and] we will start preparing for France and Germany."

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Japan women's basketball national team head coach Toru Onzuka encourages his players in an Olympic qualifying match against Hungary on February 9 in Sopron, Hungary. (KYODO)

Big Challenge for Japan Women in Opening Match

In a rematch of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic women's final, the seven-time defending gold medalist and top-ranked United States and world No 9 Japan will square off on July 29.

Japan coach Toru Onzuka's squad then meets 19th-ranked Germany and No 6 Belgium on August 1 and 4, respectively.

An assistant coach for Japan at the Tokyo Games, Onzuka hopes to build off that experience in leading the national team in France.

"First of all, I felt 'here it comes,' and enjoyment was the biggest emotion," Onzuka said in a statement, describing the announcement of the women's draw.

Onzuka said Japan's rematch with Team USA in its Paris Games opener will be emotional, but added that he hopes his team will "fight well with our own strength."

Regarding the team's overall focus for the 2024 Olympics, Onzuka said, "We are looking forward to the Paris Olympics as well, and we will take this opportunity to grow and develop." 

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FIBA Hall of Famer Penny Taylor draws Japan for Group C for the Olympic women's basketball tournament during the ceremony in Mies, Switzerland, on March 19. (Denis Balibouse/REUTERS)

The Pinnacle of Competition'

Despite the eight-hour time difference between Japan and Switzerland, JBA President Yuko Mitsuya expressed heartfelt enthusiasm for the Olympic basketball draws after they were held.

"At 3 o'clock in the morning today, the Olympic group draw was held in Switzerland, and I watched it live on FIBA's official YouTube channel," Mitsuya said in a statement.

"Looking at the lineup of participating countries, I am once again humbled by the fact that the Olympics are the pinnacle of competition, with 12 of the world's strongest teams participating."

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Japan coach Tom Hovasse (Issei Kato/REUTERS)

It's just a shoe!

Shooting for Success in France

After leading the Japan women's team to a silver-medal finish at the pandemic-delayed Toko Olympics in 2021, Hovasse's next coaching stop didn't require a change of address.

Leading the men's team for two-plus years now, Hovasse has set a target of guiding Akatsuki Japan on an upward trajectory on the global stage.

"In the World Cup, our goal was to be No 1 in Asia, which we got, but we still ended up 19th in the World Cup, right?" Hovasse was quoted as saying in an interview with Olympics.com. "And for me, it's exciting that we qualified for Paris, an amazing goal but we were still 19th in the [32-team] World Cup."

The American-born bench boss continued: "The Olympics is going to be even tougher because there's only 12 teams. So if we can get in the top eight, that would be amazing. To achieve that would be amazing."

Additional Info on the Olympic Basketball Tournaments

For the 12-team men's tourney, Group A qualifiers are Australia and Canada plus the TBD winners of Olympic qualifying tournaments held July 2-7 in Piraeus, Greece, and Valencia, Spain.

The six participants for Greece: Slovenia, New Zealand, Croatia, Egypt, Greece and the Dominican Republic.

Meanwhile, six teams will vie for the one berth in Spain: Lebanon, Angola, Spain, Finland, Poland and the Bahamas.

In Group C, the teams are Serbia, Olympic basketball debutant South Sudan, Tokyo 2020 champion United States and the TBD winner of an Olympic qualifying tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico, held on the same dates as the others reported above.

The Puerto Rico participants: Mexico, Ivory Coast, Lithuania, Italy, Puerto Rico and Bahrain.

On the women's side, Serbia, Spain, China and Puerto Rico comprise Group A. Canada, Nigeria, Australia and France are in Group B.

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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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