Japanese basketball phenom Rui Hachimura will play for the Gonzaga University Bulldogs next year, head coach Mark Few revealed on the team’s official website.
According to the website, the team has signed 17-year-old Hachimura to a national letter of intent. He is one of five players, including two other international prospects in Denmark’s Jacob Larsen and France’s Killian Tillie, to have put pen to paper in the early signing period.
The announcement was made on Saturday.
Hachimura, a native of Toyama Prefecture, led Meisei High School to back-to-back All-Japan High School Tournament championships in his first two years at the Sendai school. He also guided the team to the Inter-High School Championship title, another major trophy for Japanese high school basketball, this year.
Several Japanese-born players have competed at NCAA Division I level. But Gonzaga, a West Coast Conference school, will be the highest-profile men’s basketball program that a Japanese has played at.
Gonzaga is ranked 10th in the latest AP Top 25 poll.
The Bulldogs are two-time Elite Eight finishers in the NCAA Tournament (1999, 2015). Ten-time NBA All-Star and Utah Jazz legend John Stockton, the all-time assist leader in the league, was a product of the school.
The 198-cm Hachimura (he’s actually listed at 203 cm on many U.S. websites), who was born to a father from Benin and a Japanese mother, has drawn international attention. He led the 2014 FIBA Under-17 World Championship in Dubai in scoring (22.6 points) and was the only Japanese invited to the Jordan Brand Classic at Barclays Center in April. Besides Gonzaga, many other U.S. D-I programs had also had close eyes on him.
“Rui Hachimura is a really interesting prospect with a high ceiling,” Few said on the website. “We’re excited for him to be part of our future.”
Hachimura, a dominant inside force in Japanese prep ball, mostly played near the basket in his first year at Meisei, but with his transfer to the United States in sight, he’s started to polish his outside skills, including jump shots and penetration.
He lists Jabari Parker of the Milwaukee Bucks as one of his favorite players, and his goal is to become an NBA player.
Hachimura, who played on the Japan national team in the Aug. 29-Sep. 6 William Jones Cup in Taiwan, said during a national training camp this summer that he’s working on his English to prepare for his move to the United States.
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