Gonzaga Bulldogs

Rui Hachimura reaction to meeting first minority pro basketball player in America

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - After the Zags' open practice and shootaround today, Rui Hachimura got a special surprise.

96-year-old Wataru “Wat” Misaka, the NBA’s first non-white and first player of Asian descent (Japanese), said meeting Hachimura was second only to meeting Yao Ming.

He has been compared to Jackie Robinson for breaking the color barrier in professional basketball like Robinson did in Major League Baseball. The two were both drafted into their respective sports in 1947. The first African-American player wasn't drafted into the NBA until 1950.

According to Wat, Rui has all the tools to make it.

Misaka played college ball at the University of Utah and helped his school win the 1944 NCAA and 147 NIT championships. He took a two-year hiatus between these titles to serve in the US Army during the American occupation of Japan. 

Misaka only played in the NBA from 1947-1948 (known as the Basketball Association of America back then). He only played three games with the New York Knicks before being cut because, Misaka believes, the team had too many guards.

Wat declined an offer to play with the Harlem Globetrotters, and returned home to earn a degree in engineering from Utah. He joined a company in Salt Lake City and still lives there today.

He was inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.

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