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Hachimura’s junior high coach ‘delighted beyond words’

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Joji Sakamoto, third from right, speaks during an interview in Toyama.

The Yomiuri ShimbunRui Hachimura’s junior high school coach said he was so delighted after hearing that Hachimura had become the first Japanese basketball player ever selected in the first round draft of the National Basketball Association.

“My dream has always been the growth of Hachimura [as a basketball player]. He achieved the goal, and made my dream come true,” said Joji Sakamoto, 59, a basketball coach at Okuda Junior High School in Toyama.

The Washington Wizards selected Hachimura, 21, of Gonzaga University with the ninth pick in the first round of the NBA draft in New York on Thursday.

Sakamoto said he received a phone call from Hachimura shortly after he watched him get picked on a live webcast.

Hachimura was quoted as saying in the phone call: “Everything started with you, coach. I couldn’t have done it without you.”

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  • The Associated Press

    Washington Wizards introduce Rui Hachimura, center, the team’s first-round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, holds up a jersey as he poses for photos with Wizards senior vice president of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard, right, and head coach Scott Brooks, left, during an NBA basketball press conference at Capital One Arena in Washington on Friday.

“I’m delighted beyond words. I’m so grateful that I could meet a player who would become a history maker,” Sakamoto said. “I want him to play a pivotal role in the team, and make a spectacular showing in the Tokyo Olympics as well.”

Hachimura also conveyed his appreciation over the phone to Hisao Sato, 69, his basketball coach at Sendai’s Meisei High School.

Sato said Hachimura was an absolute ace on the high school team, but what impressed him most was his caring nature.

Sato recalls that when Hachimura’s teammate started crying during a time-out for failing to shoot a basket, Hachimura held the teammate’s head gently and said, “I’ll score a point on your behalf.”

“I have told him, ‘The bough that bears the most hangs lowest.’ I want him to remember to always thank people around him,” Sato said.

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