WASHINGTON -- Even though he does two separate media scrums every time he addresses reporters, one in English and then one in Japanese, Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura is a man of few words.
As he looked ahead to his first NBA game - Wednesday at the Dallas Mavericks (8:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington) - in which he will be in the starting lineup, he didn't say much more than he is "excited." He said his mother is expected to be in attendance, but he won't be nervous.
So if Hachimura won't say much about himself, perhaps a story from Bradley Beal will suffice. The Wizards' All-Star shooting guard shared his first impressions of Hachimura, the Wizards' 2019 first round pick, in an interview with NBC Sports Washington.
When asked which player had impressed him the most, Beal said "Rui," but it didn't start out that way. Beal said he was skeptical when Hachimura first showed up at the Wizards' practice facility ahead of the preseason for informal workouts.
"I didn't really watch Rui much in the Summer League. I didn't watch much of him when he was playing in the World Cup games," Beal said. "I was like 'what are we raving about?'"
But then Beal, who prides himself on his work ethic and practicing and playing even when the training staff tells him to take a break, showed up one September day to the Medstar Performance Center in Southeast D.C.
"Sure enough, he comes in the gym and he's the first one in here," Beal said. "He's working out and he's getting his weights in. When he's on the floor, he's working out and he's in a sweat. Then, he steps on the floor to play pick-up and it's like 'damn, what can't he do?'"
Beal said Hachimura scrimmaged with his new Wizards teammates for three straight days and was making shots from all over the court. He showed the versatility that made him a star at Gonzaga University with strong finishes at the rim, deft midrange jumpers and a confident three-point stroke.
"I like a lot of what I see out of him," Beal said. "I love the fact he doesn't necessarily have a position. We can mold him into what we want him to be."
There was one play in particular that caught Beal's eye. A shot bounced off the rim and Hachimura snatched it out of the air with one hand, casually turning to dribble up the floor. It wasn't a normal rebound where he went up and scooped the ball like most players would. He palmed it with ease, as as if it were an orange.
"I didn't know he could do that. I didn't know his hands were that big," Beal said in amazement. "From that moment, I was like 'he's going to be a problem.'"
It didn't take long for Hachimura to wow one of the NBA's best players. Now it's time for the rest of the league to find out what he can do.
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