FIBA Women's Asia Cup: Tough challenge awaits India

India (World No. 45) has three tough opponents — defending champion Japan (World No.10), South Korea (World No. 18) and Chinese Taipei (World No. 39) - in Group-A of Division-A.

Japan's basketball players during a practice session ahead of FIBA Women's Asia Cup basketball at Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Monday.   -  K. Murali Kumar

India has a tough task ahead in the FIBA Women's Asia Cup basketball tournament, which commences at the Sree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium here on Tuesday.

India (World No. 45) has three tough opponents — defending champion Japan (World No.10), South Korea (World No. 18) and Chinese Taipei (World No. 39) - in Group-A of Division-A.

India had qualified for the elite Division-A by winning the lower Division-B title in the previous edition, held at the same venue in 2017.

India opens its campaign against Japan on the opening day. With Japan and South Korea appearing to be a cut above a rest, India will hope to defeat a comparatively weaker Chinese Taipei in order to avoid the relegation battle.

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Australia, China, New Zealand and Philippines are in Group-B. The top team in each group will progress to the semifinal, while the second and third placed sides will battle for the remaining two last-four slots.

India skipper R. Rajapriyadarshini wore a confident look on the eve of the championship. “Our preparation has been very good," Rajapriyadarshini said, “Winning and losing is secondary. Our aim is to give our very best on the court.”

Coach Zoran Visic stated, “We cannot afford to play below our full potential. We will try to use the crowd support to the maximum.”

Fans can look forward to seeing world-class players in action. Japan, hoping to become the third nation to complete a four-peat (after South Korea and China), will count on two-time Women’s Asia Cup MVP Ramu Tokashiki to come good.

Japan coach and former NBA player Tom Hovasse stated that while his side will miss the services of electric guard Asami Yoshida, there are plenty of other quality players on the roster. The trademark Japanese speed and precision passing will be on full display here, Hovasse added.

“Playing with speed is the only way we can win. We can’t beat physically bigger teams like Australia and China in a half-court game. We have to run, use the entire court and open things up. That’s a big part of our game,” Hovasse said.

The powerhouse Australian unit boasts of six players from the team that finished runner-up to United State of America in the 2018 Women’s Basketball World Cup. The physical Chinese side will be led by Shao Ting and Han Xu, both of whom played in the WNBA this season. Star forward Kelli Hayes, fresh from a four-year stint for the UCLA Bruins in the NCAA, will make her FIBA Women’s Asia Cup debut with the Philippines national team.

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