How did Hachimura get to this point? What can he do to help grow the popularity of the sport globally? Keep reading to find out more about his story.
Rui Hachimura’s career at Gonzaga
Hachimura didn’t see much playing time as a freshman, but his sophomore season became his breakout year. He averaged 11 points and four rebounds per game. Instead of heading into the draft, he decided to return for his junior season. Gonzaga became one of the best teams in the country and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
He put up 20 points and six rebounds per game while shooting over 41% from behind the arc. He earned a spot on the All-American team and was also named the West Coast Conference Player of the Year.
The first of his kind
Coming into the 2019 NBA Draft he was viewed as a top-15 prospect. It was no surprise to see him get drafted in the lottery by the Washington Wizards with the ninth overall pick.
Rui was the first Japanese-born player to be drafted in the lottery. This is big news for a country like Japan with so much national pride. Thankfully, he should fit into the Wizards offense seamlessly. With Otto Porter traded last season he can step in and become that valuable small forward, a position head coach Scott Brooks has utilized at his previous stop in Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant.
Is Rui Hachimura already becoming a superstar?
When Yao Ming entered the NBA he had a country with over 1 billion people rooting for him. He was also very skilled and dominated the game on both ends of the floor. He didn’t disappoint as he was named an All-Star all eight of the seasons he played in the NBA. Yao ended up with a Hall-of-Fame career. No doubt Hachimura would like to do the same.
Hachimura has an opportunity to have that impact that Yao Ming had, except in Japan. He’s already viewed as one of the country’s most famous athletes.
How is the NBA expanding globally?
Since Yao entered the league, China has seen the popularity of basketball explode, turning the NBA into one of the hottest sports leagues in the country.
Former President Barack Obama, Toronto Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver are all working together to create the African Basketball League. It will bring a round-robin tournament to the continent in 2020, and will help increase the game’s popularity even further.
Basketball has also expanded into China as many NBA players go to the Chinese Basketball League to get a good payday and look great against lesser-known competition. Stephon Marbury is arguably the most notable Chinese basketball player from the NBA ranks and he became an icon in the country.
There’s no reason why Rui can’t have the same impact. Baseball is the most popular sport in the country at the moment. Now we are not calling him the next Ichiro Suzuki, but he could turn the game of basketball on to a lot of young Japanese kids if he plays the way we expect him to play.
Do you think Hachimura can handle the pressure?
What are you expecting from the Wizards newest draft pick? We think he will have an opportunity early to show off his skill set and could end up on the all-rookie team by the time the season winds down.
If you want more news and notes from around the hardwood, be sure to check out our NBA section.