The narrative around Washington Wizards Rui Hachimura is that he is more popular in Japan than he is in the D.C. area. That may very well be true because he is the first Japanese player to be picked in the first round of the NBA Draft. But there is another place here in the US where Hachimura is a legend, namely in Washington State.
Hachimura played three years at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash. before declaring for the NBA Draft last year. And he made a surprise visit at the McCarthey Athletic Center (a/k/a The Kennel) before the No. 3 team in the country played and defeated Saint Mary’s Gaels, 86-76 last Saturday on their Senior Night.
The appearance was a surprise, because the video screen shoed a message from Hachimura implying that he would not be able to make the game ... until he actually showed up.
Hachimura was able to make the surprise appearance because the Wizards weren’t playing last Saturday where they were in transit between Salt Lake City, Utah when they played the Jazz last Friday and San Francisco, Calif. when they played the Warriors just yesterday. Scheduling and flights would have been a little tight, but it’s awesome to see Hachimura get it done.
If he did not declare for the NBA Draft last year, Hachimura’s senior season would have been this year — and he would have been honored on this night as well. Killian Tillie, Ryan Woolridge and Admon Gilder were honored.
Of the three, Hachimura only played alongside Tillie, a French-Dutch center who averages 13.6 points and 5 rebounds per game this season and could be an NBA Draft pick. ESPN places him in the Top 100 on their draft board. Woolridge and Gilder were graduate transfers.
So did this trip back to Spokane hurt Hachimura’s performance the next night? If anything, it was a boost of adrenaline. He scored 15 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in the Wizards’ win over the Warriors yesterday.