yuta watanabe toronto

What to know about the Toronto Raptors' new heartthrob Yuta Watanabe

The Raptors have had a rough start to the season, and yes, they lost last night's game to the Golden State Warriors — but our new recruit Yuta Watanabe is winning over the masses and converting us into Watanabaes

The 26-year-old Japanese forward with the good energy has signed a two-way contract, and he's given us something to look forward to since his first game with the Toronto Raptors against the New York Knicks on Dec. 31. 

There was also Sunday night's ultra-satisfying block against Steph Curry that was worth the rewatch, many times over. Yuta-mania has officially arrived in Canada. 

At 6"8, there are a number of reasons people are stanning this new player, dubbed "The Chosen One" in Japan. 

For one, the player from Miki's countryside beat the odds by making the team straight out of training camp.

He's been getting more playing time than expected from Coach Nick Nurse, and especially impressed during the Raptors' relieving win against the Sacramento Kings with some scrappy defense.

Along with Terence Davis, Malachi Flynn, and Chris Boucher, the bench is looking a lot hotter with Watanabe around.  

Before Watanabe arrived in North America, he was the leader of his high school basketball team in Kagawa, where he was rated a three star recruit by ESPN Recruiting Nation. 

Following high school, he played for George Washington University, where he became the first-ever Japanese-born man to be given an NCAA Division I basketball scholarship. 

His basketball skills come as no big surprise, considering both his dad and his mom, Hideyuki and Kumi, played professionally for Japan. He's a good friend of Rui Hachimura and fellow Japanese player with the Washington Wizards. 

Unsuprisingly, Watanabe is a fan of the classic manga Slam Dunk.

Watanabe came to the States not knowing any English, hence why the majority of his interviews are in Japanese, but has said that his English has improved exponentially over time. 

There's been some difficulty for some in pronouncing his name correctly (it's Wah-tan-ah-bay, not -bee), but it fits all too well for the Yuta hive forming around this promising new player. 

Lead photo by

Yuta Watanabe

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