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From FIBA Asia Cup to the next big stage, Yudai Baba is ready to breakout
DALLAS (USA) - 2019 has been a highly eventful year for Japan basketball. From qualifying to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 to winning the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup and B.League representative Alvark Tokyo taking the FIBA Asia Champions Cup crown, the teams have experienced much success. Moreover, the individual superstars have also taken huge stride forwards in their careers as well.
Yuta Watanabe made the first splash, signing on to play with the Memphis Grizzlies late in the season. Rui Hachimura then followed in the summer, becoming the first Japan-born player to be drafted in the first round of the NBA draft to the Washington Wizards. Now, it’s home-grown star Yudai Baba who has picked up an opportunity with the Dallas Mavericks/Texas Legends in this upcoming season.
Baba and Hachimura are both from the Toyama Prefecture in Japan and even teamed up during junior high school. Now they might even have a chance to go up against each on one of the brightest stages in the basketball world.
“I love the way [Baba] plays. He’s very energetic, got a great enthusiasm for the game and he’s a very knowledgeable player. And he’s the kind of guy that teammates like to play with – very athletic and very strong. And he knows the game,” said Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle, as per the Mavs website.
This chance for Baba in the NBA comes following an impressive stretch of success in Japan. Aside from starring for back-to-back league champions Alvark Tokyo, Baba has also been a bright spot with the national team in the recent years.
He made his senior national team debut back in 2017, including a promising first FIBA Asia Cup appearance. It wasn’t the most memorable runs for Japan in FIBA Asia Cup 2017, but 21-year-old Baba made a good impression with 5.5 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. The athletic forward kept on improving ever since, raising his averages to 8.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game at the World Cup Asian Qualifiers and 9.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game at the World Cup itself.
Being good at basketball enough to warrant a spot on the national team seems to run in the family for Yudai Baba. His father, Toshiharu, was also a member of the national team and even won an Asian Games bronze medal back in 1982.
“It was my father who gave me the reason to start playing basketball and I’m where I am because of him as well,” Yudai said about his father, he told the Japan Times. “Going back to my beginnings as a basketball player, he was there. He won’t be able to see me play in person as much going forward. So every time he does, I would like to show my growth as a player in front of him.”
The elder Baba has undoubtedly seen much growth of his son’s game over the years, especially having coached him in high school at Toyama Daiichi. Yudai was a star on the FIBA U16 Asian Championship 2011 bronze medalist team who averaged 14.3 points per game and now he’s an important piece for the Akatsuki Five heading into the future.
There will be a lot more opportunities to watch as Baba continues to improve. Whether it is in the NBA or at the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers that will be tipping off in February next year, you can be sure that Yudai will always be playing his best to make his father proud.