When the Washington Wizards drafted Rui Hachimura at ninth overall in the NBA Draft they drafted more than just a product from Gonzaga. They drafted a superstar whose stardom only rises game by game. Born in Toyama, Japan, he’s considered one of the biggest stars of his homeland since Ichiro and the first of it’s kind to step on an NBA basketball court.
Hachimura’s jerseys have flown off the shelves at Capital One Arena and the Wizards popularity has grown in Japan. The team has a Japanese social media channel and many Japanese athletes and celebrities have all wanted to meet Washington’s newest star. In LA, he met Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels before scoring a career-high 30 points in an eventual loss to the Clippers. He also met Yu Darvish at a game recently.
Believe it or not, Hachimura once was a standout on the baseball diamond and thought he would have a career there. He didn’t try basketball until he was 13. It was a sport he initially didn’t want to play but then it became a sport he couldn’t put down.
In his NBA debut, Hachimura posted a double-double with 14 points and 10 boards. His best game was in Los Angeles against the Clippers on Sunday Dec. 1 where he scored a career-high 30 points. It was a game where he got praise from Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
“He’s a good rookie, a really good rookie. It was great to see him for the first time. We’ve seen a lot of rookies now, but he definitely stood out as one of their better players and one of the best players in the long run in his class,” said George.
“He’s good. He’s very fundamentally sound. He has the tools to get to his spots. Once he gets more games under his belt, and finds his attack spots, he can only get better,” added Leonard.
The power forward has a solid mid-range jumper but needs improvement in his shooting beyond the arc. His defense and rebounding are his biggest strengths. Hachimura has averaged 13.9 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game thus far but has progressed over his last six games. In that stretch, Hachimura has averaged 19.8 points per game and 7.2 rebounds including 5.8 on the defensive end. That included 27 points in a 119-113 win on Dec. 5 over the Philadelphia 76ers in Washington’s best win of the season.
Hachimura followed that up with 14 points and six rebounds the next night in Miami before adding a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds in a loss to the Charlotte Hornets. During a win over Detroit, Hachimura suffered a groin injury that sidelined him for six weeks.
Tonight Hachimura returns to the court against the Golden State Warriors. The team updated the news on Sunday that he, along with Moe Wagner, are both available for action tonight. They’ll also take part in the Rising Stars Challenge on All Star weekend, a big positive for the franchise despite the league overlooking Bradley Beal.
As the Wizards continue to navigate a 2019-20 season where they’re mostly retooling but maybe are motivated for late season push, look for Hachimura to continue to grow and develop. His fans from Japan will be with him every step of the way.