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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Former Gonzaga standout Rui Hachimura returns to Japan for Wizards’ preseason games vs. Golden State

Sept. 28, 2022 Updated Wed., Sept. 28, 2022 at 6:05 p.m.

Philadelphia guard Matisse Thybulle contests a shot by Washington forward Rui Hachimura during a 2021 playoff series.  (Tribune News Service)
Philadelphia guard Matisse Thybulle contests a shot by Washington forward Rui Hachimura during a 2021 playoff series. (Tribune News Service)

Former Gonzaga standout Rui Hachimura is opening the NBA preseason with a couple of home games.

The fourth-year Washington forward will be a busy man on and off the court as the Wizards face defending champion Golden State on Friday and Sunday in Hachimura’s native country as part of the 2022 NBA Japan Games. The games are sold out at Saitama Super Arena near Tokyo and will be the NBA’s 15th and 16th preseason games staged in Japan since 1990.

Hachimura, one of Japan’s biggest sports stars, and the Wizards arrived in Japan early Wednesday morning after a flight of roughly 14 hours and 30 minutes. He will obviously be in the media spotlight – he did numerous interviews and photo shoots prior to the team’s departure – while also showing his homeland to his teammates, which includes Corey Kispert, who played with Hachimura at Gonzaga.

Hachimura has planned for a team dinner in Tokyo with one of his favorite items on the menu.

“My favorite food is called sukiyaki,” he told NBC Sports Washington. “It’s like a hotpot. It’s like a mix of soy sauce and all that kind of stuff. They put beef and vegetables (in it). You actually eat it with raw eggs. I want them to try that. I’m having a dinner one day, so we’re going to have that.”

The 6-foot-8 Hachimura also wanted his teammates to “walk around the city because there are a lot of people in Japan walking around. One thing when I was in Japan that I always remember, people are very short. That’s one thing. If you are walking around, the views are different for tall people. That’s one thing I want them to experience.”

What a difference one year has made for Hachimura, who sat the first 39 games last season for personal reasons. He hasn’t elaborate on the reasons for his absence, but he noted that he’d been playing basketball nearly full time since he was 13. Prior to returning to NBA games in early January last season, Hachimura’s last competitive game was representing Japan at the Tokyo Olympics.

Hachimura put together a strong last half of last season for the Wizards. His 3-point accuracy improved to 44.7% , easily a career high. He averaged 11.3 points and 3.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes.

The upcoming season is a big one for Hachimura, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. He started his first 105 games in his first two seasons and averaged 13.7 points and roughly 31 minutes. He came off the bench in 29 of 42 appearances last season.

“Really good,” Kispert said of Hachimura’s performance on the court recently. “Really, really good.”

“Just having him in the second half of the season and to see where he is now, it seems like he’s in a different place,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “I know last year he added the 3-point shot to his game. He’s spent a lot of time this summer working spatially on playing on the perimeter. That’s just a new iteration for him; ball-handling, finishing, continuing to shoot the 3-point shot well.”

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