JPN - Takada ready for return to action in Ankara
KARIYA (FIBA World Championship for Women) - The last time Maki Takada wore a senior national team vest at a major tournament was inside Ankara Arena two years ago and in a quirk of fate, that looks like being the place where she will resume her career when she steps out with Japan at the FIBA World Championship for Women.
Having last played in the ultimately unsuccessful 2012 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women campaign, the forward didn't feature last year in Bangkok when Japan ended their wait of more than four decades to be crowned the FIBA Asia Championship for Women winners.
However, despite missing out on a memorable golden moment, the 24-year-old insists it wasn't anything but celebratory for her.
"I didn't have any mixed emotions about the team winning the gold medal in Bangkok," said Takada.
"It was great news for Japan and I was proud of the team.
"I was positively affected by the news of their success and it gave me even more of a feeling that I really wanted to play for the national team again.
"Playing with the team can also make me improve and I am very honoured to play and really appreciate being selected again."
Her inclusion was inevitable after posting an astonishing 2013-14 domestic campaign with Denso Iris. She finished as the leader of the WJBL in points and rebounds after completing a magnificent season double-double of 19.5 points and 11.6 boards per game.
Takada has certainly been playing some of the best basketball of her career and it resulted in taking her side to the WJBL Finals and individual accolades - although she quickly handed the credit to the various people who have been supporting her.
"I had been trying to play my best every season in the past, but I sometimes had some troubles with my team.
"I tried to play really hard last year and I was rewarded with many prizes - but it was not only through my own efforts.
"It was also the effort and support from many of the fans, my team-mates and the club's sponsor, Denso.
"I think I am still good condition now and I am trying to be even better in the future."
Part of that future will be competing in a Japanese forward line which looks as good as it has ever been and many people are saying the best yet - an opinion which Takada is in tune with.
"Yes, I agree that our frontcourt looks stronger than before," she claimed.
"I will try improving as an individual forward and I think we still have to improve even more as a team and all show our abilities.
"We are disadvantaged since we are still small, but we are taller than before and even quicker.
"We will be able to take advantage of this and especially if we all try to play well together."
This will be the second time that Takada has participated at the FIBA World Championship for Women having been involved in the Czech Republic four years ago.
"They are all good teams, but I think that I will be able to show my ability when I play against them," she said.
"I will not be afraid of them and I will try to play my best.
"I was sat on the bench almost all the time at my first FIBA World Championship, but it gave me the chance to see how other teams and top players competed on the court.
"I got to see how they played in terms of their technique, quickness, and power. I also remember that back then, I was maybe overwhelmed by their play."
Ironically, Takada is currently in the middle of a five-game series against Czech Republic - one of their Group A opponents.