Kai Toews’ promising college career has come to an end.
The University of North Carolina Wilmington sophomore point guard is leaving school to pursue a career in pro basketball, it was announced on Monday.
According to a UNCW athletics news release, Toews told the team’s coaching staff of his plans to leave school after the Seahawks’ game against host Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Toews, a Tokyo native, is expected to sign with a B. League team in the coming days.
“Obviously, it was a total surprise to us,” Seahawks coach C.B. McGrath said about Toews’ decision to leave school. “We appreciate Kai’s contributions to our program and wish him well in the future.”
The 188-cm Toews made an immediate impact as a college freshman in the 2018-19 campaign. He set a Colonial Athletic Association single-season record with 253 assists. He was also named to the CAA All-Rookie Team.
In 33 games (32 starts) last season, Toews averaged 8.8 points, 7.7 assists and 2.6 rebounds. He was second among NCAA Division I players in assists per game, trailing only NBA first-round draft pick Ja Morant of Murray State (10.0). In addition to recording a lot of assists, Toews had a low turnover total (112) for a first-year playmaker.
“He’s a true point guard that wants to record an assist before scoring,” McGrath said earlier this year. “Kai is a player every shooter wants as a teammate.”
As a sophomore, Toews started 12 of UNCW’s 13 games. He averaged 5.5 points and 4.3 assists for the Seahawks, who are 5-8.
In a January interview with The Japan Times, Toews spoke about his desire to compete for the Japan men’s national team at the FIBA World Cup in China, and use that experience as a springboard for next year. In the interview, he also said he hoped to be one of Japan’s guards at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He admitted that confidence in his ability had grown while competing in the United States.
Before attending UNCW, Toews went to Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts for two years to complete his high school education.
“Every time I go back (to Japan), I find how comfortable I am in that situation (team tryouts),” Toews told The Japan Times.
He added: “Last year, I personally thought that I was ready, not to go in and take anybody’s spot but to go in and at least compete. . . . I think this summer will be the year that I can do it.”
Toews, however, was not named to the Akatsuki Five’s 12-man roster for the World Cup.
The 188-cm guard has competed for Japan’s Under-15 and Under-19 national squads.
When he was a kid, Toews said Hall of Famer Allen Iverson was a favorite player.