By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
Filipino-Japanese Matthew Aquino, the son of PBA legend Marlou Aquino, finally made his highly-anticipated debut for the Japanese men’s basketball team in the 2023 FIBA World Cup Asia qualifiers.
The young versatile center donned the red and white jersey of Japan and logged in four minutes in their win against Chinese Taipei, 76-71, and tallied two points and one rebound.
Despite the nip-and-tuck affair between the two rival nations, Aquino still made it into the coaching staff’s main rotation where he first saw action in the first quarter and was subbed in again in the last seconds of the final frame.
Aquino also provided some anchoring in Japan’s defense when he was able to force several stops in the shaded lane against the physical big men of Chinese Taipei.
The six-foot-nine center was already in Japan when the Japan B. League season kicked off last year and signed with the Shinshu Brave Warriors.
After several games in the B. League, Japan’s national team then invited Aquino to be a member of their initial 20-man pool for the FIBA qualifiers and was later on called up to be a part of their Final 12 in the ongoing February window.
Japan is currently grouped with Chinese Taipei, China, and Australia in Group B of the categories and is already assured of a 2023 World Cup seat via a host country outright privilege.