Rui Hachimura grew up in Sendai, Japan, and has become a key player for Gonzaga. It was the perfect landing spot for the Japanese forward given Mark Few’s ability to attract players from all over the world.
“I like that this program has teammates and coaches who are like family,” Hachimura told The Gonzaga Bulletin. “I knew there were a lot of international players playing here and they know the process of developing international players.”
Hachimura left behind his younger brothers and two sisters along with his parents in order to follow his hoop dreams. All indications are the NBA awaits whenever Hachimura’s days at Gonzaga are over. It would be a historic moment for Japan given only a handful of Japanese players have made it to the NBA.
Learn more about Hachimura and his family.
1. Hachimura’s Dad Is From Benin & His Mom Is From Japan
According to the Japan Times, Hachimura’s father is from Benin, a country in West Africa, and his mother is from Japan. The Japan Times notes Hachimura and some of the other top Japanese athletes are opening doors for other multiracial athletes to be celebrated.
Simply, the number of international marriages between Japanese and foreign nationals have increased, and that’s one of the biggest reasons for the rise of the biracial athletes…So the presence of foreign nationals and multiracial people isn’t such a rarity as contemporary Japanese society has become gradually more open. This holds true in the sporting world as well, as biracial athletes are treated just like the others these days.
2. Hachimura Is Just the Fifth Japanese-Born Player to Play Division I Men’s Basketball
Hachimura understands there are a lot of Japanese fans rooting for him to succeed in the States. He spoke with Fox Sports about playing for his home country.
“I want to show the Japanese people they can play in America,” Hachimura told Fox Sports. “It’s good for us.”
Kyodo News America reporter Akiko Yamawaki spoke with Fox Sports about the high expectations that follow Hachimura.
“I think a lot of Japanese people expect him to be in the NBA one day,” Yamawaki told Fox Sports. “That makes a lot of Japanese basketball fans excited, because you don’t [usually see] a Japanese player that can run and jump high like him and dunk like an American player. It’s kind of a different expectation for him from Japanese people.”
3. Hachimura Is Projected to Be a 1st Round NBA Draft Pick in 2019
Hachimura is still a work-in-progress, but the Gonzaga forward has a lot of the characteristics that NBA teams look for. He is long and athletic, but is still getting a feel for the game. After averaging just 4.6 minutes his freshman season, Hachimura has become an integral part of the 2017-18 Gonzaga squad. He is averaging 11.4 points and 4.6 rebounds in just over 20 minutes each game.
If Hachimura opts to come back to school for another season, Hachimura solidly projects to be an NBA first round pick in 2019. ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony predicts Hachimura to be a lottery pick going No. 12 in his 2019 NBA Mock Draft.
4. Hachimura Would Only Be the 2nd Japanese-Born Player to Play in the NBA
If all goes as planned, Hachimura looks like he will eventually head to the NBA, which would be a historic moment for Japan. According to Complex, Hachimura would only be the second Japanese-born player to play in the NBA. Yuta Tabuse was the first and only Japanese-born player to play in the NBA. Tabuse played four games for the Suns, but was cut three months after joining the team.
There have been several Japanese-American NBA players. In 1947, Japanese-American Wataru Misaka broke the color barrier in the NBA during the same year Jackie Robinson did so in baseball. Misaka played in three games averaging 2.3 points. Complex detailed his stint with the Knicks.
The same year that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, Wataru Misaka became the first non-caucasian to play in the NBA. A staff sergeant during WWII, Misaka faced discrimination for his Japanese ethnicity during the war with Japan. After he was discharged, he finished his collegiate playing career at the University of Utah, and was selected by the Knicks in the 1947 Draft.
Misaka’s run in the NBA was short lived—he was cut after scoring seven points in three games, and never receieved a full explaination as to why. Critical observers might point to his race, but Misaka thought it was for a basketball reason: The Knicks had too many guards on the roster, and coming in at 5’7″ and 150 lbs, Misaka wasn’t exactly a physical specimen full of long-term potential.
Three years later the first African-American was signed, and it would be 40 years before another Asian player would play in the NBA.
5. Hachimura Learned to Speak English After Enrolling at Gonzaga
Hachimura had to learn English in addition to the typical transition of becoming a college student, and learning a new basketball system. The Gonzaga forward is continuing to learn the language, but has made strides in his second year with the team.
“I was the guy who didn’t speak anything last year, but they were already trying to help me with speaking English or anything I did,” Hachimura told The Gonzaga Bulletin. “That was so fun and very helpful for everything, on the court or off the court.”
Gonzaga assistant coach Tommy Lloyd explained to The Gonzaga Bulletin all Hachimura has overcome to be playing at such a high level.
“When we first brought Rui here, I reminded people that this guy probably has more obstacles and further to go than any guy we’ve ever brought in here,” Lloyd told The Gonzaga Bulletin. “And he’s passed it with flying colors.”
Source: Heavy Sports