2022 FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup: Tokashiki Ramu's ready to sacrifice for Japan on return to global stage

Having overcome an ACL tear that forced her to miss the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the former Seattle Storm centre will make her first appearance at a major international tournament since Rio 2016 - with eyes firmly fixed on Paris.

By Shintaro Kano
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

She may no longer be the go-to girl of Japanese women's hoops as she once was, but Tokashiki Ramu is back.

And she is fine with it, not having to carry the team night in, night out.

"It’s been a while since I was last on the world stage", Tokashiki told reporters ahead of the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup in Sydney starting on Thursday (22 September).

"I just hope I can showcase everything I’ve been working on in practice".

The 31-year-old centre has rejoined the fold, to a Japan team who are considered as one of the tournament favourites in a Group B including France, Serbia, Mali, Canada and hosts Australia.

READ MORE: 2022 FIBA Women's World Cup: Preview, schedule and stars to watch with Paris 2024 spot at stake

The last time Tokashiki appeared at a major international competition goes back to Rio 2016, where Japan raised a few eyebrows by making the eventual gold medallists United States uncomfortable for one half in their quarter-final.

At Tokyo 2020, Tom Hovasse's Japan went out and proved their performance at the previous Games was no fluke, storming to the silver medal behind the U.S.

Tokashiki had to settle for being a spectator of her team-mates' fairytale run to the final, after tearing the ACL in her right knee in December 2020.

Clearly, it was not the summer she was hoping for, having been the pillar of the squad for so many years. Words like painful or tears wouldn’t begin to describe the despondence she felt.

Under Hovasse's successor Onzuka Toru, Tokashiki returns to a Japan team different to the one she left.

Reaching the Olympic podium has given the current group of players a confidence they previously did not have. There is squad depth, too.

Tokashiki still has a point of difference with unique size for a Japanese at 1.93 metres but her role has changed, from being the focal point to one of the key players.

In Rio, she averaged 36 minutes a game to go with 17 points and six baords but those numbers are no longer expected to be there in Sydney.

“I’m not used to everything yet but I feel like we’re a brand new team”, Tokashiki said. “Before our roles were clearly defined with lots of plays called out but now everyone does a bit of everything which is refreshing.

“I’ll do whatever the coach asks me to do. My style at the Rio Olympics was to post up and play down low, to help balance the inside and outside game which is why I probably stood out, I think.

“We don’t have a lot of size which is where I like to think I can contribute to the team. Grabbing rebounds, defending and being physical with bigs. It’s the dirty work but I want to do whatever I can”.

Despite a new order at Japan, Tokashiki is excited about this World Cup. She is looking forward to reuniting and playing against her old Seattle Storm teammate Lauren Jackson, who is making her own reprisal of sorts.

And as no small carrot, the champions of this World Cup will be handed a place for the next Olympic Games in Paris, and you can bet Tokashiki is more than determined to be there to say the least.

But first things first: Mali on Thursday.

“We’ve got Mail then Serbia to start off. I want to make sure I do my job and help us get out of the group”, Tokashiki said.

“Until I play in the Olympics I don’t think I’ll ever get over (not playing in Tokyo. But it’s not easy to win a medal. I’m a veteran now at 31 but until I’m through with the Olympics there’ll always be something stuck in my throat.

"I need to keep working to the fullest each and every day”.

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