The Japanese men’s basketball team has claimed a spot in the 2024 Olympics by winning a pair of World Cup classification games against Venezuela and Cape Verde.
The two victories boosted Japan’s record for the tournament to 3-2 (the team also defeated Finland in round one), making it the only FIBA Asia club to win three World Cup games this year.
Just one other FIBA Asia club earned more than a single win at the event — Lebanon picked up victories over Iran and Cote d’Ivoire in the classification games. China and the Philippines each had one win, while Jordan and Iran went 0-5.
Japan played in the 2020 Olympics as the host nation, but hadn’t qualified outright for the Olympics since 1976, so this represents a major achievement for the national team.
The World Cup squad was led by Suns forward Yuta Watanabe (14.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG) and former Washington State big man Josh Hawkinson, a naturalized Japanese citizen who has played professionally in the country’s B.League since 2017 and averaged a double-double (21.0 PPG, 10.8 RPG) in five World Cup contests.
Lakers forward Rui Hachimura – who wasn’t part of the World Cup team but who played in the 2020 Olympics – will be a prime candidate to join next year’s Olympic roster.
A total of seven teams will qualify for the Olympics based on their World Cup results. The top-ranked team from each of Asia, Africa, and Oceania make the cut, as do the top two clubs from both Europe and the Americas.
Although Japan, South Sudan (Africa) and Australia (Oceania) have all been eliminated from World Cup medal contention, they’ve each qualified for the Paris Olympics based on their overall finish. France, the host nation, also receives an automatic Olympic berth, which means four spots are still up for grabs at the World Cup.
Germany, Slovenia, Lithuania, Italy, Latvia, Serbia, and Spain remain in the running for the two Europe spots, while the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico are vying for the two Americas openings.
The teams that don’t qualify for the 2024 Olympics via the World Cup will get one more opportunity to do so at a series of four Olympic qualifying tournaments next year.