Rumoured to be on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games opening ceremony flag-bearer shortlist, history-making NBA player Rui Hachimura’s stock could explode in a month’s time. The 23-year-old Japanese-Beninese forward is fresh off his best season so far with the Washington Wizards, where he gained plaudits from the likes of triple-double record-breaking teammate Russell Westbrook. From “trying to hide from people” as a mixed child in Japan, to becoming the first Japanese player ever to be drafted in the first round of an NBA Draft, and brushing shoulders with Tokyo Games poster girl Naomi Osaka, it is no wonder “The Black Samurai” fits the profile for the biggest sporting event in the world after a year’s postponement. Here’s what you need to know about the two-metre tall national team prospect dubbed as one of Asia’s best active NBA talents. Biography Rui Hachimura was born on February 8, 1998 in Toyama, Japan to a Beninese father and Japanese mother. Though he was originally funnelled into being a baseball player, he soon found his calling in basketball. The former Meisei High School player brought them to three consecutive All-Japan tournament wins and very quickly established himself as a Japanese age-grade national team star. ⼋ pic.twitter.com/MTmKR1y1Op — Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) February 23, 2021 By 2016, Hachimura was widely considered one of the best international college-level players. He soon joined NCAA division I college team Gonzaga Bulldogs, and would become the first Japanese national to play in a division I men’s tournament. He was a nominee for the Naismith College Player of the Year – awarded to the top men’s and women’s collegiate players – in his second year. The Wizards picked Hachimura as the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. He was the first Japanese player to be drafted in the first round – Yasutaka Okayama was drafted by the Golden State Warriors in the eighth round in the 1981 Draft. Hachimura finished with a double-double on his debut and proceeded to show glimpses of promise. However, the remainder of his first year would be ridden by various injuries. He nonetheless made the NBA All-Rookie second team by the end of the season. Hachimura’s injury struggles continued into his second season, but he eventually found consistency and improved upon virtually all of his statistics, and proved himself against the league’s best offensive players in the Play-offs. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Rui “Louis” Hachimura 八村 塁 (@rui_8mura) Family and race Born to father Zakari Jabil of Benin and Makiko Hachimura of Japan, Hachimura has openly talked about his struggles with culture and identity. He has three younger siblings – his brother Allen is an aspiring university player in Japan. “When I was a kid I was always trying to hide from people because I was kind of different from other people,” Hachimura said in an interview. “It was really hard as a kid. I had a hard experience ... I think we were the only black family in the town ... As a mixed-race kid, growing up in Japan was very hard, you know. “When I was a kid there weren’t many [mixed families], especially in my hometown – it’s small in the countryside. “But I started playing basketball and sports and I was actually really good at it. I was more athletic than anybody else and I was good at everything: baseball, basketball, karate, soccer, track and field. That’s how people started to respect me more.” Hachimura has since embraced his hybrid heritage, calling it “unique”, and hoped that fellow mixed-raced youngsters in Japan would do the same. However, in May he commented on his brother’s post screenshotting a racist message he received telling him to “die”, saying “I get this kind of thing almost every day”. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Rui “Louis” Hachimura 八村 塁 (@rui_8mura) Tokyo Games spotlight With Japan automatically qualified for their home Games, coach Julio Lamas will be looking to his proven overseas stars to keep up with the world-class basketball competition. Japan have yet to win an Olympic medal in basketball. While it will be extremely difficult to replicate his national youth statistics, Hachimura is joined by Yuta Watanabe and a wealth of domestic league players. He last helped Japan in the 2019 FIBA World Cup and will be put to the test against reigning world champions Spain, Argentina and another qualifying team still not determined. What statistics and trends do not convey is the attention and pressure Hachimura will garner in Tokyo. But the experience will be valuable for his third NBA season transition, said Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard. BASKETBALL ACTION 2020 SHOWCASEに向けて、 八村塁選手からメッセージが届きました️ 今回出場する弟の八村阿蓮選手(東海大3年)へのエールも @rui_8mura @allen_hachi @TOKAI_SEAGULLS_ #バスケで日本を元気に #超える力叶える力 pic.twitter.com/gNx59smDtr — 日本バスケットボール協会(JBA) (@JAPANBASKETBALL) August 15, 2020 “[It’s] a great opportunity. A great stage, a whole different ball of wax for him pressure-wise to have the world watching and to play against some of the best teams in the world,” he told NBC. As for the inevitable off-court frenzy, Hachimura is more than ready to follow former world No 1 tennis player, Japanese-Haitian Osaka, during the Games. “There are a lot of mixed kids like me. There are a lot of mixed-race kids right now in Japan and I think there’s going to be a lot of kids representing Japan, so I’m excited to see those guys. I’m so excited. Tokyo is a really big city. It’s gonna be crazy,” he told the official Olympics website. Wizards third-year While Washington did not go very far in the postseason NBA Play-offs, it was impressive that they actually got there in the first place. They turned around an 11-loss deficit to finish 34-38 by the season’s end, with much of the credit going to nine-time NBA All-Star Westbrook. Hachimura also secured his first Play-off double-double, something that new all-time NBA triple-double leader Westbrook would have been pleased with. “Rui has to many different tools. He’s so good, so talented. My challenge to him is to be able to do it every night. I think that’s the most important thing to do in this league. When he’s able to do it at a level, we’re a much better team. We’re much better when he’s playing his best and leaving it out on the floor,” Westbrook told NBC.