Senior guard Taishi Ito, who hails from Mie Prefecture, has helped the University of Portland (Ore.) men’s basketball team earn a spot in The Associated Press Top 25 rankings for the first time since 1959.
The Pilots are 7-2 after an 86-82 loss to Portland State on Wednesday. The weekly rankings were released on Nov. 30.
The West Coast Conference school grabbed national attention after a 74-47 victory over UCLA and a 61-56 upset of then-No. 16 Minnesota in the 76 Classic last month.
“Being ranked in the top 25 at this point of the season is not necessarily a great accomplishment in and of itself,” Pilots coach Eric Reveno said in a news release, “but it’s a tremendous milestone for us as we progress as a program.”
Last season, Ito served as co-captain and was selected as UP’s Best Defensive Player in a vote by his teammates. In addition, he was the team leader in charges and played a valuable role coming off the bench in 31 games.
Ito, who attended Montrose Christian School in Maryland along with ex-Columbia University sharpshooter and current Rera Kamuy Hokkaido rookie Keijiro “K.J.” Matsui, is averaging 12 minutes a game this season.