George Washington basketball team planning 2016 tour of Japan


Staff Writer

The George Washington University men’s basketball team is planning to tour Japan next summer, the school’s athletic director, Patrick Nero, said in an interview with The Japan Times in Tokyo on Monday.

Nero and the team’s head coach, Mike Lonergan, are currently visiting Japan to explore options for potential exhibition opponents for the Colonials, who added Japanese star forward Yuta Watanabe in the 2014-15 season.

“What we are looking into doing is, take the entire George Washington basketball team to Japan next summer and play a series of exhibition games, most likely in Tokyo and hopefully in Okinawa,” Nero said.

NCAA regulations allows a U.S. college basketball team to take a foreign excursion once every four years. The Colonials toured Italy in 2012.

Nero said that the tour would likely take place in late August, and that there is also a chance for GW to come in June.

Watanabe, a 203-cm player who Japanese fans are hoping can make it to the NBA, would be the main attraction on the tour. In his freshman season, the Kagawa Prefecture native averaged 7.4 points and 3.5 rebounds while playing in all the team’s games. Nero said Watanabe has already become one of the favorites among Colonials fans.

Nero said the tour wouldn’t just be an opportunity for the team to spend time on the basketball court, but that they would do some volunteer work in Okinawa as well.

“When we went to Italy, we went to a U.S. base and the team did clinics for all the children on the base,” Nero said. “They played a scrimmage game with the base team. So we’d probably do that in Okinawa as well.”

Nero added that GW would also hope to bring other students for educational purposes, such as learning about Japan and its culture.

“Coming over here is like a course,” Nero said. “Our university does these type of courses around all sports. We have a class that goes to those Olympics. So we took a class to London, class to Sochi, 30 students that studied the business of the Olympics.

“We have a very high-level sports business program at the school. So we are hoping we will bring those students on the tour. It will be a wonderful experience for our students.”