“Since I was little kid, tiny, I was dreaming this. I’m thinking I don’t want to be a NBA player because I’m Japanese. I want to be an NBA player because I’m a basketball player like everyone else."
That basketball player is Yuta Watanabe, an undrafted, 6-9, 23-year-old baller from George Washington, who will become only the second Japanese-born player to make the NBA if he can ink a deal with a NBA team.
On Monday night, his dream of landing on a roster hopefully took a step closer to reality after knocking down 4-of-6 threes on his way to scoring a game-high 14 points to go with 4 rebounds and 2 blocks during Brooklyn's Summer League loss to the Wolves.
“He’s making me more comfortable, the coaching staff, for sure,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “He’s probably been our most consistent player, practices and games included. So I give him credit for that.”
This was his third game with the Nets. He had eight points and five rebounds in his debut last Friday and 13 points and five rebounds in his second game. But the stat that sticks out the most on the boxscores is in the blocks column. The two-time A-10 Defensive Player Of The Year has eight blocks in three games.
“Defense is my strength in college,” said Watanabe, who was just a three-star recruit in high school. “I can’t remember how many blocks I got, but I’m glad I was able to show I can play defense even at the four.”
And I'll be glad when the player Japan labeled "The Chosen One" is able to step on the floor with America's "Chosen One" and show off his game to a NBA crowd.
The last Japanese-born player in the NBA was a 5'8" point guard named Yuta Tabuse. He was Steve Nash's back up for four games during the exciting 2004/05 season and a fan favorite of not just the Suns but the basketball world. According to the Suns, Tabuse set a record for daily views to a players page on NBA.com, doubling Kobe Bryant and LeBron James from the previous year. By the time he made his NBA debut on November the 3rd, his Suns jersey was the third best selling one. You can check out his highlights and read more about him here.