Basketball

Hustle top Legends as Yuta Watanabe and Yudai Baba make NBA G League season debuts

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Second-year pro Yuta Watanabe delivered an energizing performance on Friday to help the Memphis Hustle open their NBA G League season with a 105-95 victory over the visiting Texas Legends.

Watanabe, a two-way player for the Hustle and the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, started at power forward and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds. He was 3-for-12 from the field in 38 minutes, finishing with seven points. The George Washington University product also had two steals and a block.

Watanabe drained a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer from the right baseline with 7:17 left in the fourth quarter. That gave his team an 89-81 lead.

The game also marked Legends newcomer Yudai Baba’s NBA G League debut. He starred for the Alvark Tokyo for the past two seasons, helping the B. League club capture back-to-back titles. Baba, who turned 24 on Thursday, came off the bench and saw 5-plus minutes of court time. He was 0-for-1 from the field, picked up a foul and blocked a shot.

It was the first time two Japanese players competed in the same game in the G League or its predecessor, the NBA Development League.

As a result, there was a bigger than normal group of Japanese press at Landers Center in Southaven, Mississippi, a Memphis suburb.

“There’s a huge Japanese media contingent here in Southaven with both Yuta Watanabe and Yudai Baba set to face off tonight,” tweeted @sbnGrizzlies, which reports on the Hustle and the Grizzlies, before the game.

The Hustle and Legends square off again on Saturday in Frisco, Texas.

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