Yuta Watanabe of St. Thomas More (CT) committed to George Washington last week. The 6’7 forward was also considering Fordham. Watanabe was recently named to the All-Tournament team at the National Prep School Invitational. He will become the only student-athlete from Japan to secure an NCAA Division 1 basketball scholarship.
NetScouts Basketball’s Carl Berman commented on Watanabe’s ability “Watanabe has improved quite a bit over the past year. He’s very smart, more of a point forward, he’s long and his shooting is solid with range. A team can run much of their offense through him as he’ll make good decisions with the ball. He’s very skilled and athletic and can play multiple positions. He’ll improve and is an excellent signing for George Washington.”
Watanabe will become one of very few Japanese-born men to have played at an NCAA Division I school, following Keijuro “K.J.” Matsui (Columbia) and Taishi Ito (Portland) but is by far the player with the most potential to come out of Japan in the last decade, if not ever.
Watanabe gained recognition in Japan by leading his Jinsei High School team to 2nd place in the 2010 and 2011 All-Japan Tournament. He is also on the Japanese national team.
Another player from Japan is currently at Ohlone (CA) Junior College playing for our friend John Peterson. Ryo Tawatari, a 5’11 guard, is popular in Japan for his streetball and success in 3-on-3 tournaments. He’s only averaging a little more than four points per game in his first year at Ohlone but recently has been getting more playing time and scored 17 points in a recent game against Las Positas. Peterson has seven international players on his roster and coached a NetScouts Basketball USA All-Star team in China in 2012. Here’s a feature we wrote about Ohlone last season.