The leading scorer on the Gonzaga Bulldogs is a native of Japan who has become a sensation in his home country. Rui Hachimura, a dynamic junior forward, came to Gonzaga three years ago after growing up in the Toyama Prefecture of Japan. After a breakout season, he’s in line to become a first round pick in the NBA draft come June.
Hachimura is averaging 20 points and six rebounds per game this season on 60 percent shooting from the field. He’ll lead the top-seeded ‘Zags into the Sweet 16 on Thursday night against Florida State with an Elite Eight bid on the line.
At 21 years old, Hachimura looks like the best Japanese basketball prospect ever. He’s a 6’8, 230-pound forward with natural scoring instincts, combining soft touch on his jump shot with an athletic frame that allows him to thrive in transition and finish above the rim.
This is everything you need to know about Hachimura as he continues to lead the Bulldogs in the NCAA tournament.
Where is Rui Hachimura from?
Hachimura was born on February 8, 1998 in Toyama, a city on the western coast of Honshu, the main island in Japan. He has a Beninese father and a Japanese mother. As a biracial star in a fiercely homogenous country, Hachimura immediately stood out.
When did Rui Hachimura start playing basketball?
Hachimura’s first love was baseball until a growth spurt and a desire to find a more exciting sport led him to basketball. He started focusing on basketball around 12 years old.
How did Rui Hachimura get discovered?
Hachimura made a name for himself at the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championships in Dubai. He was the leading scorer in the tournament by averaging 22.4 points per game through seven games. His tournament run included a 25-point game (on 10-of-28 shooting) against a United States squad that featured Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, Josh Jackson, and more.
Though Japan came in 14th place in the 16-team event, Hachimura’s performance put him on the map. Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd took notice and started the process of recruiting him.
How did Gonzaga recruit Rui Hachimura?
Gonzaga has a strong history of recruiting internationally, with Lloyd leading the pipeline. Ronny Turiaf (France), Domantas Sabonis (Lithuania), Kelly Olynyk (Canada) and Elias Harris (Germany) are just three prominent examples. After watching him at the U17 World Cup, Lloyd made Hachimura his next target.
Lloyd offered Hachimura a scholarship in person during Gonzaga’s trip to Japan to play Pittsburgh in Armed Forces Classic (a game that was remembered for the humidity making the floor ultra slippery). Hachimura ultimately picked Gonzaga over Arizona and others.
Can we see some Rui Hachimura highlights?
These are highlights from this season as Hachimura has put together a great junior year. Here’s how it happened.
Hachimura didn’t play much as a freshman. He was Gonzaga’s sixth man as a sophomore.
Hachimura never redshirted at Gonzaga — he was a member of the program’s first ever Final Four team during his freshman year. Hachimura appeared in 28 games during his first season with the ‘Zags, scoring a total of 73 points, and spending most of his time on the bench behind a talented front court that included Przemek Karnowski, Johnathan Williams III, and eventual NBA lottery pick Zach Collins.
As a sophomore, Hachimura emerged as a productive scorer and Gonzaga’s sixth man. He averaged 11.6 points and 4.7 rebounds while being named first-team all conference in the WCC.
Hachimura has been one of college basketball’s best players as a junior
Hachimura has been a driving force for Gonzaga’s success this season. He was named as one of four finalists for the Naismith Award, which is awarded to college basketball’s most outstanding player. Duke’s Zion Williamson, Murray State’s Ja Morant, and Tennessee’s Grant Williams are the other finalists.
Hachimura was named the MVP of the Maui Invitational after a terrific performance in a win against Duke, finishing the game with 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and three blocks. Two weeks later, he had a buzzer-beater to defeat Washington:
Rui Hachimura voltou a se destacar por Gonzaga.— Live College Brasil (@LiveCollegeBR) December 6, 2018
Dessa vez, foi o responsável pelo game-winning contra Washington pic.twitter.com/R2Uh9Ek0Mf
Hachimura has scored at least 20 points in 20 of Gonzaga’s 35 games this season. He was named the WCC Player of the Year in March.
Where is Rui Hachimura projected to be taken in the NBA draft?
Hachimura is currently the No. 18 overall player on ESPN’s NBA draft big board. He is not the mostly highly-touted prospect on his team. Teammate Brandon Clarke is projected as a potential lottery pick, which means a top-14 selection.
SB Nation projected Hachimura at No. 26 overall to the Indiana Pacers in its most recent mock draft.
Have there been other Japanese players in the NBA?
Yes. Yuta Tabuse became the first Japanese player to ever play in the NBA when he debuted with the Phoenix Suns in 2004. Tabuse’s NBA career lasted only four games. Yuta Watanabe, who starred at George Washington before going undrafted, has played in 11 NBA games for the Memphis Grizzlies this year.
What’s Rui Hachimura’s NBA scouting report?
- Good combination of size and athleticism at 6’8, 230 pounds. Runs the floor well and is strong enough to finish through contact in the paint. Has long arms, reportedly a 7’2 wingspan.
- Impressive touch as a shooter. Made 60 percent of his field goals, 74 percent of his free throws, 47 percent of his three points on 32 attempts from deep this season. His 65 percent true shooting percentage was top-35 in the nation.
- Can draw fouls. Averaged nearly six free throw attempts per game.
- Doesn’t turn the ball over much. His 13 percent turnover rate is impressive.
- Doesn’t rebound as well as he should. Offensive rebound rate of 6.1 percent and defensive rebound rate of 17.2 percent are nowhere near the college basketball leaderboard.
- Lacks awareness defensively. Has struggled to both protect the rim as a shot blocker and defend the perimeter by sliding his feet with guards through the year. Often looks lost rotating to play help defense.
- Not a good passer. Only had 54 assists to 64 turnovers this season.
- Has shot well in a small sample from three-point range. Will need to become a higher volume three-point shooter while maintaining his accuracy to be a good NBA player.
- Needs to improve feel for the game and basketball IQ.
Rui Hachimura is Japanese basketball’s great hope
Hachimura will play for Japan in international competition. He helped lead his home country to a second place finish in its group in FIBA World Cup qualifying last summer by averaging 21 points per game.
With Japan hosting the 2020 Tokyo Games, Hachimura is going to attract so much attention. First, he’s trying to lead the ‘Zags to the Final Four.