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Two-Way Tracker: Meet New Hustle Forward Yuta Watanabe

By Jake Winderman | July 22, 2018

Player: Yuta Watanabe

College: George Washington (2014-2018)

Height/Weight: 6-foot-8, 193 pounds

NBA Team/G League Affiliate: Memphis Grizzlies/Memphis Hustle

College Breakdown: Watanabe spent his four-year collegiate career at George Washington University, where he averaged 16.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game during his senior year. Watanabe was named Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year and earned All-Atlantic 10 Third Team honors during the 2017-2018 season. Watanabe played the 5th most minutes per game in the Atlantic 10 last season and ranked 3rd in the conference in blocks per game. During his senior campaign, Watanabe shot 43.7 percent from the field, 36.4 percent from beyond the arc and 80.7 percent at the charity stripe. Watanabe made his international debut with Japan at the 2013 East Asia Basketball Championship, later participating with the team at the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship.

Scouting Report: When Watanabe makes his NBA debut, he’ll become the second Japanese-born player in league history to play in an NBA game. Watanabe is an elite defender who can guard multiple positions and uses his basketball IQ to see plays develop before they happen. He’s a solid mid-range shooter and has a knack for drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line, where he’s an above-average shooter. Watanabe is an excellent shot blocker for his size and has the athleticism to keep up with bigger forwards. Offensively, Watanabe has the ability to knock down shots at a high clip from long range and projects to be a modern day 3-and-D type of player.

Organizational Fit: While the Memphis Hustle are a relatively young franchise, they’ve already groomed several players for NBA action, including Ivan Rabb, Kobi Simmons, Wayne Selden Ben McLemore and Jarell Martin. Last season, the Hustle allowed the fourth-most points per game in the NBA G League. Watanabe’s defensive prowess will have an immediate impact on the club during the 2018-2019 season.