Rui Hachimura, the son of a Beninese father and Japanese mother, has exploded on the college basketball scene. Gonzaga University – known for seeking international talent for its athletic teams – first discovered Hachimura during the 2014 FIBA (International Basketball Federation) Under-17 Basketball World Cup in Dubai. He also led his high school, Meisei High School, to the All-Japan High School Tournament title. Now he is the best player on the No. 3 NCAA basketball team.
Hachimura grew up in Toyoma, a coastal town about a five-hour drive west of Tokyo. He was often questioned about his Japaneseness. Now he is easily mistaken for African American but experienced confusion due to his inability to speak English. Prior to attending Gonzaga, he had been to the US only once for a family trip to New York when he was 12 years old, and he didn’t speak any English. Now, in his Junior year, he is a fluent English speaker. This is no small feat, as English is extremely difficult for Japanese native speakers to learn.
He was Most Valuable Player of the Maui Jim Invitational All-Tournament. Gonzaga beat Duke 89-87 in the championship game. He averaged 22.7 points and 6 rebounds in 3 games.
He is the 5th Japanese-born player to play Division I Men’s Basketball, and he is the 1st Japanese native to play in the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament. He is projected to be a 1st Round NBA Draft Pick in 2019. Should that happen, he would be the 2nd Japanese-born player to ever play in the NBA. The 1st was Yuta Tabuse in 2004, but he only played for the Phoenix Suns for 3 months before he was cut from the team. There have been several Japanese-American basketball players, starting in 1947 with Wataru Misaka (who was first introduced on Blasians Defined in 2012 in the post “Asians & Basketball“). After Misaka, there wasn’t another Asian player for 40 years (although there was a Blasian player selected in 1978, Raymond Townsend).
* Gonzaga Bulletin, “Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura is Gonzaga’s X factor“, February 21, 2018.
* ESPN, “The Education of Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura“, November 16, 2018.
* Sports Illustrated, “Rui Hachimura Is Thriving as Japan and Gonzaga’s Best Hope for Basketball Glory“, November 27, 2018.