MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Memphis Grizzlies rookie forward Yuta Watanabe is only the second Japanese-born basketball player to make it to the NBA.
The only other one to do it was also a guy named Yuta – Yuta Tabuse.
Tabuse had a short stint with the Phoenix Suns during the 04-05 season, but Watanabe is hoping for a lasting role in the NBA.
Watanabe is trying to become the first Japanese player to actually play significantly in the Association.
A crowd of Japanese media follows Watanabe at literally every Grizzlies media availability, and naturally, there's an interest in Watanabe from the Japanese community.
Watanabe returned that love Sunday at the Memphis Japan Festival.
He spoke to WMC5 about the support from the Japanese community in Memphis and his expectations for the upcoming season.
"It means a lot to me... I didn’t know like this huge community in Memphis, so I love their support and you know hopefully I can see them at games,” Watanabe said. “So I think I’m going to spend most of my time in the D-league but hopefully I’m going to get called up by the Grizzlies too but I’m just going to work hard as much as possible and I’m going to enjoy it so I’m really excited about the season.”
Watanabe and the Grizzlies open preseason play against Houston in Birmingham on Tuesday.