Rui Hachimura

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Rui Hachimura, Moe Wagner appreciative of opportunity to represent in Rising Stars game

Rui Hachimura, Moe Wagner appreciative of opportunity to represent in Rising Stars game

CHICAGO -- Rui Hachimura and Moe Wagner had to remind themselves they were playing in a showcase and not a real game. On Friday night, as they represented the Wizards in the Rising Stars Challenge, both were tempted to do things they are known for but that don't generally fly in an exhibition. 

For Hachimura, that was his midrange shot. In the second quarter, he drove right and pulled up for a 15-footer. It was the type of move he makes several times a game for the Wizards. But in the Rising Stars game, no one shoots midrange shots.

"It was funny. In the game, I shot a midrange and they were like 'no, no midrange, only threes and dunks.' But I'm like, that's my game," Hachimura said.

Wagner had several opportunities to do what he does best; take a charge. In the third quarter, on back-to-back plays Warriors rookie Eric Paschall drove right at him. Wagner could have squared up, set his feet and taken the hit. Instead, he wrapped Paschall up for a foul.

Wagner, though, admitted he thought about it.

"I would have in a real game," he said. "I would have never taken it [in this setting]."

Though they were on the losing side with Team World, both Hachimura and Wagner fared well on the All-Star stage. Hachimura had 14 points as a starter and Wagner had 16 off the bench.

They came away from the experience appreciative they were able to represent the Wizards and also their home countries.

"I'm just proud of myself and proud to be Japanese," Hachimura said. "I think a lot of people were watching in Japan. I just want to grow basketball in Japan."

"[It hit me] when I saw my flag," Wagner said. "Germans are not like Americans like super patriotic... it was cool."

Hachimura and Wagner are a testament to the globalization of basketball. Now it is commonplace to have stars hail from countries all over the world.

Hachimura was the first Japanese-born player to participate in the Rising Stars game. He was also the first player from the country ever drafted in the first round.

Basketball's international growth was on display during a timeout in the first half when Wagner along with other players on Team World kicked a basketball around in a circle. They had clearly all grown up playing soccer, which is the No. 1 sport in most countries, including Germany.

"That was amazing," Wagner said. "I bet only two or three American players could do that... I was probably the worst one at it."

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Rui Hachimura, Moe Wagner meet Barack Obama, who wants to attend a Wizards game

Rui Hachimura, Moe Wagner meet Barack Obama, who wants to attend a Wizards game

CHICAGO -- NBA All-Star weekend always features an interesting mix of basketball stars and celebrities, and with this year's showcase in Chicago, former President Barack Obama was on hand Friday at a food drive presented by NBA Cares.

Obama showed up at Wintrust Arena in the South Side as players in the Rising Stars game gave out food to those in need. He interacted with players from Team World and Team U.S.A., including both representatives of the Wizards; Rui Hachimura and Moe Wagner.

After the game on Friday night, they described their interaction with Obama, who is one of Washington, D.C.'s most famous residents.

"It was cool. He said he wants to come to a game sometime soon," Hachimura said.

Obama has attended Wizards games before, but not since 2009. Despite leaving office in 2017, he still lives in the District and could make the short trip over from his house in Kalorama. 
Wagner had met Obama once before. They crossed paths when Wagner was at the University of Michigan and attended a rally during the 2016 election that Obama spoke at.

Still, he was in awe seeing him again.

"I was starstruck. I didn't know what to do, whether to stand up or sit down," Wagner said. "He said what's up to me... He knew me. I was like 'oh.' He instantly asked me about Michigan. I was like 'this is unreal.'"

Wagner spoke glowingly of the 44th President, saying he's a "big fan." He finds him inspirational and also an especially cool person.

"That man's got some swag," he said.

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2020 NBA Rising Stars game: Schedule, Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

2020 NBA Rising Stars game: Schedule, Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Tonight two Wizards players will be taking part in the 2020 NBA Rising Stars game, rookie Rui Hachimura and sophomore forward Moe Wagner. While the event is not considered to be the main attraction of the weekend, it should not be overlooked. The Rising Stars game is a display of the young talent throughout the league. 

While the event was once a strict rookies vs. sophomores game, it has now changed in format. The game now pits rookies and sophomores in the league in a U.S. vs. international format. The change demonstrates the NBA’s acknowledgment of the international talent prevalent in the league. 

Hachimura was out for 23 games due to an injury, but it seems that he didn’t miss a beat. During Tuesday’s game against the Bulls, Hachimura had 20 points, four rebounds, two blocks, three assists and two steals. Wagner had also been out due to an injury, missing 25 games, but on Tuesday he jumped right back into things. Wagner had 12 points, three boards, a block and a steal. 

To have both Hachimura and Wagner chosen to participate in the game is an amazing achievement in itself. The Wizards have only had two players appear in the Rising Stars game from 2004 through 2019. These two players were John Wall and Bradley Beal. To have two Wizards players selected to play is confirmation that the young talent on the Wizards team is there and is being recognized.

Rising Stars Participants

U.S. Roster: 

Miles Bridges (Charlotte Hornets)

Wendell Carter Jr. (Chicago Bulls)

Devonte’ Graham (Charlotte Hornets)

Tyler Herro (Miami Heat) (injured, will not play)

Jaren Jackson Jr. (Memphis Grizzlies)

Ja Morant (Memphis Grizzlies)

Kendrick Nunn (Miami Heat)

Eric Paschall (Golden State Warriors)

Collin Sexton (Cleveland Cavaliers) (injury replacement)

PJ Washington (Charlotte Hornets)

Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans)

Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks)

World Roster:

Nickeil Alexander-Walker (New Orleans Pelicans)

Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns)

RJ Barrett (New York Knicks)

Brandon Clarke (Memphis Grizzlies)

Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Rui Hachimura (Washington Wizards)

Svi Mykhailiuk (Detroit Pistons)

Josh Okogie (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Moritz Wagner (Washington Wizards)

 

How to Watch the Rising Stars Challenge

Channel: TNT

When: Friday, Feb. 14, 9 p.m, ET

Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois

Live Stream: https://www.tntdrama.com/watchtnt  

 

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