Japan’s men’s basketball head coach Julio Lamas has revealed he is hoping to arrange eight exhibition matches against strong sides from Europe and the Americas to prepare his team for the postponed Tokyo Olympics. Lamas revealed the planned schedule during a news conference, the Japan Times reported.

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As hosts, Japan have been awarded an automatic place in the Tokyo basketball competition but there are fears they will struggle to be competitive. The country lost all five of their matches at last year’s Basketball World Cup in China and have not played at the Olympic Games since Montreal 1976.

Japan also finished ninth at the last Asia Cup in Beirut in 2017, with their last continental title coming in 1971. They ended seventh at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang and are currently ranked 40th in the world. Lamas, who previously coached his home nation of Argentina, said he had been regularly checking on his players during the COVID-19 pandemic which has forced the postponement of the Olympics to 2021.

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“I told them that there are things that they can do at home even if they had to stay inside,” the 56-year-old said.

I repeatedly told them to pay attention to what they eat. Because they’re only human, they could easily be negligent.  You could end up watching TV all day. Your value as a player could go down unless you keep working I’ve been staying in touch with them to prevent that.

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