Watanabe opts to go to George Washington U.

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Japanese basketball phenom Yuta Watanabe will commit to George Washington University next season, he revealed on his Twitter account on Tuesday.

“I’ve decided to go to George Washington University,” Watanabe tweeted. “The school has a good basketball team, too. I’m sure I’ll have hard times both in basketball and academics, but I’ll give it my best shot.”

Watanabe reportedly received an offer from Fordham University as well. According to ESPN’s Adam Finkelstein, Watanabe was torn between George Washington and Fordham until recently.

The 19-year-old has attended St. Thomas More School, a preparatory school in Oakdale, Connecticut, since last fall and has been a core player of its men’s basketball team.

GWU is located in Washington, D.C., and its men’s basketball team belongs to the Atlantic 10 Conference. The Colonials have made the NCAA Tournament 10 times and advanced to the Sweet 16 in 1993.

George Washington has produced several NBA players. In addition, legendary former Boston Celtics head coach Red Auerbach graduated from the school.

Watanabe, a native of Kagawa Prefecture, will become one of very few Japanese-born men to have played at an NCAA Division I school, following in the footsteps of Keijuro “K.J.” Matsui and Taishi Ito, both of whom played for Division I schools in the U.S., Columbia and Portland, respectively, before returning to Japan.

According to Ben Standig of Comcast Sportsnet Washington, Watanabe will become the fifth international player on the Colonials’ 2014-15 roster.

Watanabe, who was listed as 201 cm last year but is presumably taller now, gained recognition by guiding his Jinsei High School team to runnerup finishes in 2011 and 2012 in the All-Japan Tournament.

He has also already played for the Japan national team.