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Gonzaga Basketball

‘It’s go time’: Sacre offers thoughts on former Gonzaga star Rui Hachimura joining Lakers

Former Gonzaga and Los Angeles Lakers center Rob Sacre stays busy in Spokane with his excavation business, working with his kids’ basketball teams and coaching at Flett Middle School.

Keeping up with the Lakers isn’t Sacre’s top priority, but he understands what awaits former GU standout Rui Hachimura, who was traded Monday to the Lakers, one of the preeminent franchises in the sports world located in the second biggest media market in the U.S.

“He just has to be aware – it’s go time,” Sacre said. “Yeah, the Lakers aren’t where they want to be, but they’re trying to go somewhere and they want him to be part of it. There’s hoopla for sure and there’s pressure built within the organization and that’s obviously winning. I never got those opportunities to be on a winning team, but there’s pressure from the fans, everybody. It’s win now.

“I’d say it’s one of the top franchises and there’s great pride with the organization. Top notch.”

Hachimura started his first two years with the Washington Wizards, but he’s come off the bench the last 1½ seasons. He could assume a bigger role with the Lakers, led by superstar LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

The 6-foot-8 Hachimura brings much-needed size to the forward position with a proven mid-range game and 35.6% career accuracy on 3-pointers.

“If he can knock down the 3-point shot and play great defense he has a great opportunity,” said Sacre, who played four seasons with the late Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest players in NBA history. “The formula to play with LeBron is out there. Make sure you can knock down shots and play defense and you can have a chance to win a championship. They were missing a couple of pieces, but Rui is part of that equation to get them closer.”

Hachimura has experience in the media spotlight, but perhaps not to the level of attention surrounding the Lakers. He developed into an All-American as a junior at Gonzaga.

Hachimura became the first Japanese player selected in the first round of the NBA draft when the Wizards took him with the ninth pick. He is one of Japan’s most popular athletes.

The Lakers are 22-25, 12th in the Western Conference, but Davis, who averages 27.4 points and 12.1 rebounds per game, could return to the lineup in the next week or two from a foot injury.

“A change of scenery is great, a new opportunity,” Sacre said. “I think the Lakers are all in on winning now with giving up their draft picks. There’s a pressure, he needs to realize you’re not with Washington. You’re going to be talked about (with the Lakers) whether you’re the 13th team or the No. 1 team.”

Hachimura’s exit from Washington could open up additional playing time for Corey Kispert, his former GU teammate. Kispert is averaging 27.6 minutes, 9.4 points and hitting nearly 42% on 3-pointers in his second season with the Wizards.