Yuta Watanabe is a Japanese basketball player of the National Basketball Association. He plays both small and power forwards and is currently under contract with the Toronto Raptors.
Watanabe played organized basketball during his stay at Jinsei Gakuen High School. He was instrumental in his high school basketball team’s runner-up spot in the All-Japan High School Basketball Tournament. By 2013, he traveled to the United States and attended St. Thomas More Preparatory School in Connecticut. While in St. Thomas, he was given NEPSAC Class AAA First Team All-League honors and named the National Prep School Invitational All-Tournament Team. He was given a three-star recruitment rating by Scout.com and ESPN.
In 2014, Watanabe started as a freshman basketball player at George Washington University. He was the first Japanese-born male to have been given a basketball scholarship by the NCAA Division I. During his senior year, he was named Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year, Mike Brown MVP, and Atlantic 10 All-Conference Third Team. He was also given the Patricio Garino Defensive Award and Atlantic 10 All-Defensive Team honors.
Watanabe made his professional basketball debut right after signing a contract with the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2018-2019 season. His first professional game happened on October 27, 2018, with the Phoenix Suns. By the 2019-2020 season, Watanabe was averaging 1.9 assists, 6 rebounds, and 17.2 points. On December 19, 2020, Watanabe signed a two-year contract with the Toronto Raptors.
In addition to Watanabe’s high school and collegiate as well as professional basketball careers, he was also part of Japan’s national team. His membership in this team allowed him to win a bronze medal in the 2013 East Asia Basketball Championship and play in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, and 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
- 2017 and 2018 Atlantic 10 All-Defensive Team
- 2018 Atlantic 10 All-Conference Third Team
- 2018 Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year