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Tokyo, Japan. It’s about a fortnight ago as this Buzz writer is burning the insomniac midnight oils in an APA chain hotel with a pizza delivery (man I love Japanese food) on the last night of his vacation in the Far East.
Surfing the channels looking for some sport to play with there’s little between the honoured traditions of sumo wrestling and the pitch and swing of the candy red, white and blue of baseball. As national a sport to this country as pinstripes are uniform to the Yankees. But then whilst remote hopping I see a solitary figure hooping that looks taller than the Tokyo Tower and Skytree combined.
Meet Yuta Watanabe. The second Japanese player to enter the NBA after the same first named Yuta Tabuse after his 17 games with the Phoenix Suns. The most famous Watanabe since ‘The Last Samurai’ star Ken. Ready to inception write his next chapter in translation like Murakami, South of the border, West of the sun.
Saying this kid is big in Japan is a major understatement. Over in the land of the rising sun they call their rising son, “the chosen one” like a certain King out in Hollywood. Watanabe has such a legion of followers that one frustrated fan threw their newborn baby at him. Not as an insult, but anything for a selfie. Now that’s one hell of a picture. But mamas and papas, please, we beg you…don’t try this at home. “Aah I can’t get through this crowd…here take my baby. HEADS UP!”
Good job like this countries favourite outfield recreational pastime, Yuta knows how to catch with those mitts.
And what a catch he is like the right swipe on Tinder. Everyone was swiping left on draft day apparently as Yuta Watanabe went undrafted for basketball Gods know why. He should have hit the lotto, but after a scorching Summer League with Brooklyn in Las Vegas this rookies odds went up in the desert city of sin.
But just when you thought the B.K.’s stock was rising with their ace in the hole, Y.W., the neon went out. But not whilst crossing the Times Square lights of Shibuya. Apparently, averages of 9.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.60 blocks in 24.0 minutes at the tables of the MGM weren’t enough for a team that lives and dies with the ice in D’Angelo Russell’s veins. But it’s enough for a bear bigger than the one that served up Leonardo DiCaprio like a sliced and diced, filleted fish in ‘The Revenant’.
Told you he was a catch.
Now the Nets loss is the Grizzlies gain. As the former expansion Vancouver franchise expands the league further international by bringing this kid with slick Elvis hair to the blue suede, rock and roll town of Memphis, Tennessee. Presley would be proud thank you very much.
The Kagawa native who graduated from George Washington University after four fantastic years (including a 2017-18 Atlantic 10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year senior campaign, averaging 16.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.64 blocks in 36.6 minutes) now has a two way home on Beale Street with the Grizz’s G-League affiliate the Memphis Hustle.
But don’t expect too many Gatorade breaks for a phenom potential player who is already a legend in the legacy making as a member of Japan’s international team getting ready for the 2020 Olympic Games in host city Tokyo. This 6,9, 240 pound forward thinking swingman with Bullet Train hustle could be Memphis’ next Pau Gasol foreign legend teaming with brother Marc, Mike Conley Jr and the contract of the Chandler Parsons project.
It’s safe to say that even if the draft didn’t blow him our way, this wind of change from the Far East is now in season.
Yutamania like the ‘Norwegian Wood’ of Beatlemania rocking and rolling like the King (and this time we ain’t talkin’ about ‘Bron) over there is in full effect!
So what he didn’t get drafted this Summer! By March the one who brought Madness this third month of the year will blossom again like cherry. With all the X’s and O’s at the tools of his disposal, the 23 year young Yuta Watanabe’s basketball I.Q. and ceiling has a Fuji peak.
Time to make the climb. The rookie ladder is waiting.