``I think it will be the culmination of my basketball career,''

said male basketball player Shin Hiejima when asked about his thoughts on this year's Paris Olympics.

He is a veteran who participated in last year's World Cup as the oldest member of the team and made a major contribution to helping him qualify for the Olympics on his own for the first time in 48 years.

He is heading into Paris hoping not only for his first Olympic victory, but also to further increase the popularity of basketball in Japan.

(Utsunomiya Broadcasting Station Caster Yumeno Nagai)

[Click here for details] Japan men's basketball national team qualified for Paris Olympics, wins final World Cup match

Preparing for the “last” Olympics

Hiejima played an active role in last year's World Cup as one of Japan's leading scorers, using his ability to break through the dribble using slow and slow movements, also known as the ``Hiejima Step,'' and his highly accurate three-point shot.

He says he is currently concentrating on this summer's Paris Olympics, when he will be 33 years old.

Makoto Hiejima

: ``The Paris Olympics is my biggest goal in 2024, and I think it will almost certainly be my last tournament.My life as a basketball player, or rather, my entire life, has been poured into basketball. I've sacrificed a lot of things.I think this will be the culmination of all of that, so the positioning of Paris is very important to me.''

Last year, a total of 32 teams participated in the World Cup, which Japan won three times, but only 12 teams will be able to participate in the Paris Olympics.

At the last Tokyo tournament, where Japan participated as the host country, they lost all three games in the qualifying league.

All three matches lost at Tokyo Olympics, Hiejima also disappointed (2021)

Hiejima, who was standing on that court, felt firsthand the rigors of competing at the Olympics to compete for the best in the world.

“When it comes to the Olympics, there is an image that NBA players will be at their peak to participate, and I think that the sports world is the most exciting event, and it is a tournament that everyone should aim for. I'm looking forward to seeing something different from the World Cup, so I'd like to experience that."

33 years old, still evolving

Hiejima is currently working with his club Utsunomiya Brex to improve the accuracy of all his plays in order to be selected to represent Japan again and win his first victory at the Paris Olympics.

What we are putting a lot of emphasis on is defense.

He is practicing steadily against his foreign teammates, imagining himself to be a top athlete in the world who is nearly 2 meters tall and has an excellent physique.

``If I hadn't learned defense at Brex, I definitely wouldn't have been selected for the Japan national team.Of course, I think a player who can hit three-point shots is a prerequisite, but defense is the most important thing for the Japanese national team. Because it will be done.”

Furthermore, as the oldest member of the Japanese national team, Hiejima is conscious of creating an environment in which young players can play comfortably while increasing team morale.

The role model was Yuta Tabuse, the first Japanese NBA player.

Yuta Tabuse (right), who has served as a role model

When Hiejima had just been selected to represent Japan, Tabuse was the oldest player and supported Japanese basketball.

Now, while playing for the same Utsunomiya Brex team, he says he has learned a lot.

“When I think about it now, I think it was because of Tabuse-san, the oldest member, that I was able to play without thinking.His leadership and the way he leads the team with his words is amazing. His awareness of the ball and rebounding was stronger than most, so I try to imitate that.When the oldest player chases the loose ball and dives to the floor, the younger players tend to follow him. ”

I want to make basketball more exciting

Even now that people have come to call him a veteran, he still pursues growth because of his sense of responsibility for the growing popularity of basketball in Japan.

Qualified for the Olympics on his own for the first time in 48 years (2023)

Hiejima, who has been selected to represent Japan since 2012, has experienced difficult times when Japan was unable to win on the world stage.

The women won the silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics three years ago, and the men earned their first Olympic qualification in 48 years at last year's World Cup.

With the domestic B.League also receiving a lot of attention, we believe that now is an opportunity to further increase the popularity of basketball.

Yuta Watanabe celebrates his decision to participate in the Olympics

``It's not my dream as a basketball player, but I wanted to make the basketball world more exciting.With basketball being so popular right now, I hope that by doing well at the Olympics, I can become even more popular.'' I think that the popularity of the Japanese national team will increase the most if it gets excited, so I want to achieve results in Paris.”

Towards greater heights

At the end of the interview, we asked the participants to write about their thoughts on this year, which they consider to be the culmination of their personal experiences.

The words that Hiejima chose without hesitation were “Towards even greater heights”

He is determined not only as a player, but also as a veteran who wants to carry the Japanese basketball world on his shoulders.

Makoto Hiejima

: ``I am not satisfied with the current situation, and I want to aim even higher in many ways, and I think the Japanese basketball world should also aim for even greater heights, and I think that will be demonstrated on the Olympic stage.'' As a team, we want to surpass last year's performance, and I hope we can reach even greater heights in many ways."

[Basic information] Shin Hiejima player

▽Date of birth: August 11, 1990

▽Height/Weight: 191cm/88kg

▽Birthplace: Fukuoka Prefecture

▽Alma mater: Aoyama Gakuin University

▽Main achievements:

Tokyo Olympics Japan representative

・World Cup 2023 Japan representative

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