Rui Hachimura hasn’t yet taken the court for the Washington Wizards in an NBA game, but D.C. fans will have a chance to watch their team’s prized first-round pick represent Japan in the FIBA World Cup this weekend when the group stage gets underway.
Japan landed in the loaded Group E, which includes the United States, Turkey and the Czech Republic. Hachimura is joined by Grizzlies forward Yuta Watanabe and 2007 second-round pick Nick Fazekas on a roster mostly comprised of stars from the Japanese B.League.
The team will be leaning heavily on Hachimura, who went on a tear during exhibition play and averaged 27 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.
FIBA’s tournament will be held in eight different cities across China, with 92 games involving 32 teams played over the course of 16 days. Given the time difference, Wizards fans will have to get up early—or stay up late—to see Hachimura and Team Japan for most of the group stage.
FIBA BASKETBALL WORLD CUP, TEAM JAPAN
Saturday, Sept. 7
Japan vs. New Zealand, 7:30 a.m. ET / TV: ESPN+
Japan will be looking for its first win of the tournament against New Zealand Saturday. Rui Hachimura has had a fantastic tournament so far despite Japan's losses.
Thursday, Sept. 5
United States vs. Japan, 8:30 a.m. ET / TV: ESPN+
After a slew of NBA veterans decided not to play for Team USA this summer, the team’s roster has a younger look than in years past. But the Americans still boast some star power in the Boston Celtics’ Kemba Walker and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz.
Despite the number of players who declined invitations, Team USA is still the favorite to win the whole tournament. That being said, Hachimura could boost his rookie stock considerably with a strong performance against the Americans—especially if the Japanese make a run at an upset.
Although Team Japan was blown out 98-45 by Team USA, Rui Hachimura stunned with the play of the game, a beautiful dunk over Myles Turner.
Tuesday, Sept. 3
Japan vs. Czech Republic, 4:30 a.m. ET / TV: ESPN+
The Czechs only have one active NBA player on their roster, but he’s one Wizards fans know well. Point guard Tomas Satoransky will star for a Czech Republic team that will be competing in the FIBA World Cup for the first time.
They were hoping to have two former Wizards on the roster this year, but 2011 No. 6 overall pick Jan Vesely is rehabbing a knee injury and wasn’t medically cleared in time to compete in the tournament. Japan should be able to take home a win against the Czechs, with the game presenting Hachimura’s best opportunity to put up a big stat line.
Japan fell to the Czech Republic 89-76, however, Hachimura had a team-high 21 points (8-for-12 FG), six rebounds and four assists.
Sunday, Sept. 1
Turkey vs. Japan, 4:30 a.m. ET / TV: ESPN+
Japan will kick off group play against Turkey, who has three players currently on NBA rosters: Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Cedi Osman and Philadelphia 76ers guard Furkan Korkmaz.
Turkey is competing in its fifth-straight FIBA World Cup and has advanced past the group stage each of the past four tournaments. Behind its trio of NBA players and former second-round pick Semih Erden, the Turks figure to be a tough matchup for Japan.
Japan fell to Turkey 86-67, but Hachimura still impressed with 15 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals.
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