Yudai Baba has stressed that he wants to be an NBA player, participating in a mini-camp and playing in July’s Summer League.
Now the 23-year-old speedster has made even further progress toward his dream.
Baba’s Japanese club Alvark Tokyo announced on Tuesday that the player will participate in Dallas Mavericks’ upcoming preseason training camp.
Baba will depart for the United States on Wednesday upon the Mavericks’ request to have him work out with the team ahead of the training camp.
Baba will be the fourth Japanese to participate in an NBA preseason camp along with Washington Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura, following Yuta Tabuse, Yuki Togashi and Yuta Watanabe.
Baba, a University of Tsukuba alum, would be the first Japanese players to join a preseason camp without prior experience competing for an overseas team.
Baba was invited by Dallas for its mini-camp in June and played with second-stringers at July’s Summer League, showcasing some flashy plays. His average of 4 points and 2.25 rebounds per game over four contests in Las Vegas appears to have earned him a second chance in the fall.
“I was surprised with the offer but the GM of the Mavericks (Donnie Nelson) says I have potential,” said Baba at a Tuesday news conference. “But my dream will start from this point.”
While his spot on the Mavs’ final roster has not been guaranteed, Baba intends to play in the upcoming U.S. season — even if it is in the G League for the Texas Legends — so that in order to develop himself ahead of the Tokyo Olympics and beyond.
Baba, a small forward that primarily plays outside, hinted that the fact that he would rarely match up against physical import players in the domestic pro circuit B. League was one of the reasons why he has made up his mind staying in America even if he does not get an NBA roster spot.
“I want to play at the global level of basketball as soon as possible,” said Baba, who had 9.2 points and 2.6 rebounds per game at the FIBA World Cup. “I haven’t had many chances to take on players from overseas except for when I play on the national team. I’ve got to improve my mentality and skills.”
According to Alvark president Kunihiko Hayashi, Baba, who single-handedly earned the spotlight by scoring 18 points against the United States at the World Cup, drew interest from other overseas clubs besides the Mavericks. Japan went 0-5 in the global tourney.
Baba has contributed to the Alvark’s back-to-back B. League title in the past two seasons, mainly as a sixth man. The 198-cm player averaged 10.7 points, 3.6 assists and 1.5 steals in the 2018-19 campaign.
The Mavs finished last in the Southwest Division with a 33-49 record last year.
Dallas will open its 2019-2020 season at home against Hachimura’s Wizards on Oct. 23.