Before getting knocked out by Texas in the final Elite Eight, Gonzaga’s Japanese basketball star, Rui Hachimura averaged 19.7 points, 6 rebounds and shot 59 percent from the field. The 21-year-old small forward spent three years at Gonzaga. Rui was born in the Toyama Prefecture to a Japanese mother and Beninese father. When he first arrived in America, he didn’t speak a word of English. But after spending three years at Gonzaga, the junior did only improve his English–lead his team to the first seed heading into the tournament in March. The small forward is a defensive force, 6 ft 8 tall, 230 lbs, and has a 7-foot wingspan. Many have compared Rui’s game with this season’s top MVP candidate, the “Greek Freak”: Giannis Antetokounmpo. Some even call him the “Japanese Freak”, which, despite sounding a bit awkward, does not stop him from dropping 21 in the first round of the tournament against Fairleigh Dickinson.
Last year, Japanese player, Yuta Watanabe played briefly with the Memphis Grizzlies before being moved to the D-League. And before that was, of course, Yuta Tebuse, who played several years in the NBA in the early 2000s–the first Japanese player to do so in NBA history. Rui Hachimura is an exciting young talent. With more and more young international stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokić, and Luka Dončić rising in the NBA, it’s not surprising that Rui Hachimura will become one of them. I know the Playoffs are still going, but June is coming soon. So, before the draft, take a look at Rui Hachimura’s tournament highlights and see for yourself what this young Japanese talent can do on the hardwood: