A Japanese women’s basketball legend reveals her feelings about Korean women’s basketball.

The Incheon Shinhan Bank Esbuds participated in the W-League Summer Camp 2023 in Takasaki, held at the Takasaki Arena in Gunma Prefecture from 15 to 17 July, along with the Cheongju KB Stars, as an invitational team.

They played against the Tokyo Haneda Vikings on the second day of the tournament on the 16th. The result was a 62-73 loss for Shinhan Bank.메이저놀이터

After the game, we interviewed Haneda’s head coach Mikiko Hagiwara. Hagiwara is a legend in Japanese women’s basketball.

Born in April 1970, the Fukushima native graduated from Fukushima Girls’ High School and went on to play for Kogyo Oil, the predecessor of ENEOS. In 1993, she became the league’s top scorer for four consecutive years and represented Japan at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, where she finished seventh.

The following year, in 1997, she became the first Japanese woman to be drafted by the WNBA’s Sacramento Monarchs at 14th overall.

She played around the same time as Korean women’s basketball legends Chung Eun-soon, Yoo Young-joo, and Jeon Jeon-won, and actually competed in several international competitions, including the Asian Games.

After retiring from the game, she graduated from Waseda University and served as the head coach of the Waseda University women’s basketball team before taking over as the head coach of the Japan Women’s National Basketball Team in 2007.

In 2013, she became the head coach of the Japan Women’s National Team at the Women’s Olympic Games, and since then, she has been the head coach of the Japan Basketball Association’s age-group women’s national teams, coaching female players of all ages from U19 to U16 and working to improve their performance, before taking over as head coach of Tokyo Haneda in March 2021.

“They were a strong team,” Hagiwara said of Shinhan Bank. I’m glad we won,” Hagiwara said of the game.

He continued, “Shinhan Bank had strong outside shooting, which is a characteristic of Korean women’s basketball. They also had good screen plays that spread the court, which I think is the colour of Korean basketball tradition. However, it was surprising that they didn’t have a big man on the team.”

Shinhan Bank did not have Kim Tae-yeon at the summer camp as she was sent home early for a full examination after making light contact during a practice game.

Hagiwara recalled that the Korean women’s basketball team he remembered from his playing days was always strong.

He said, “I have played against the other team (KB Stars) many times in the past when I was a player. Whether it was the unemployment team or the national team, we always lost to them and I only have the experience and memories of not being able to win,” he said with a laugh.

But it’s different now. Japan’s women’s basketball team has already surpassed Asia and is on par with the United States. The gap between them and South Korea has widened early on. It’s time for Korea to learn from the Japanese women’s game.

When asked if he had any advice as a legend of Japanese women’s basketball and current head coach of a professional team, he thought carefully before answering.

“It’s a personal opinion,” he said, “but I was the age-group coach of Japan Women’s Basketball before I came to Haneda. I played a lot of games with the Korean U18 team, and I heard that the population of basketball in Korea was low. In Japan, the birth rate has decreased, but the basketball population is still quite large. With such a difference, it is not easy to strengthen the performance of youth players, and I wonder if that has led to the difference now.”

Photo by Park Sang-hyuk, courtesy of the W-League

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