A nation asks: Will Utah the Shootah be in Utah?

Will Utah the Shootah wind up in Utah?? An complete nation desires to know.

Yuta the Shootah, after all, is Yuta Watanabe and Utah is the venue for this yr’s All-Star Weekend … and the 3-point taking pictures contest .. in mid-February. Watanabe, presently the league’s finest deep shooter, is telling everybody from reporters to the Brooklyn Brigade that he would be honored…

For the file, he instructed Doug Bearak of the Brigade “hopefully.”

And as Brian Lewis studies on Saturday, again residence, there’s lots using on a potential choice.

He’s the so-called “Chosen One” in his native Japan, a basketball pied piper so in style in his homeland he is not solely made the Nets the nation’s most adopted crew, but additionally is spurring the development of the league itself.

“Yeah, clearly I have not talked to all the younger guys, however I hope that is been the case,” Watanabe instructed The Post.

“When I got here to the US once I was 18, I stated I needed to be considered one of the pioneers, and I hope numerous our youthful guys are going to observe me after seeing my success. And I feel I’m having a profitable season now; numerous younger guys are watching me play and I hope they have a look at me and [say]’I need to be an NBA participant.'”

Watanabe is already a basketball pioneer. He was the first Japanese participant to earn a basketball scholarship from an NCAA Division 1 college, George Washington.

“Before, there was no [path]Watanabe stated. “I did not even know the best way to get to D1. But numerous guys need to come to the US, play basketball at the excessive stage. That’s a very good signal for Japanese basketball. I get numerous DMs, feedback, so it has been nice to see numerous Japanese followers following me, cheering for me; so I simply need to hold having the profitable season.”

Watanabe is having his finest NBA season with the Nets, averaging 7.3 factors whereas taking pictures 55.2% general and 51.9% from deep. If he’s chosen he might have one large benefit. The 3-point contest begins and ends in the corners, going left to proper. Watanabe has been scorching from each, hitting higher than 60% of his nook threes,

Always in style in Japan, the 28-year-old has reached a brand new pinnacle this season, “going from in style to iconic again residence,” as Lewis writes. The change isn’t just in the numbers he is placing up on the courtroom. He’s enjoying with a few of the hottest gamers in the world in Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons. He’s additionally married to considered one of Japan’s finest recognized personalities, actress/mannequin/TV presenter Akiko Kuji

“All of the above,” NBA.com Japan author Daisuke Sugiura instructed The Post in explaining Watanabe’s rise. “He’s clearly enjoying so properly this yr, and enjoying with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons helps his reputation large time in my opinion.

“Basketball just isn’t the hottest sport in Japan, however individuals who like basketball learn about these guys, particularly KD, who simply received a gold medal in Tokyo. Yuta acquired their belief, it appears. An undrafted man, who did not also have a assured contract, helps a contender now and even creating some chemistry with all these superstars. This is a superb story. It’s simply actually exhausting to not root for him.”

“It’s cool to see,” his coach Jacque Vaughn stated. “I simply suppose again to once I was a child and my speedy influence was me seeing which Lakers I might hopefully turn out to be in the future. Now you’ve got acquired youngsters in Japan considering, How can I be the subsequent Yuta Watanabe?

“He provides hope to youngsters who need to play hoops in Japan, and seeing somebody who seems to be like them, and to be capable of aspire to be; that is fairly cool. And for him to be pleased with it, and personal it, however at the similar time know he is in the NBA and lots of people respect that for [a] purpose, he is put in the work and he deserves to be right here.”

His media numbers justify the commentary, as Lewis writes.

The Nets had been the most-watched crew on the NBA Rakuten streaming service by means of Jan. 2, their viewership up 83 p.c from final yr, when, minus Watanabe, they had been fourth. Viewership is up 2.5 occasions larger when Watanabe performs.

Watanabe’s highlights on NBA Japan’s Twitter garner 20 to 25 occasions that of the common submit. And as of New Year’s Eve, he was main all jersey gross sales on NBAStore.jp, up almost five-fold from his gross sales of final season.

“Yuta Watanabe has been considered one of the hottest NBA gamers in Japan since he was drafted in 2018, however his influence this season, along with the common power and enthusiasm round the NBA in Japan, has taken his reputation to the subsequent stage,” NBA Asia Managing Director Ramez Sheikh stated. “Not solely is that this a perform of Yuta’s particular person success this season, however he is enjoying a key position for a contending crew at the high of the Eastern Conference standings.”

Japan just isn’t the basketball hotbed that the Philippines or China are. In the Philippines, 38% of the public view basketball as their favourite sport. In China, the quantity is shut, at 30% whereas in Japan, the quantity is simply six p.c. The NBA hopes Watanabe — and to a lesser diploma the Wizards Rui Hachimura — will change that.

Watanabe is glad to be a part of the effort which has included a giant NBA presence at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and two pre-season contests final yr between the Warriors and Wizards that simply offered out.

“The fan base in Japan is rising,” Watanabe stated. “Basketball is getting extra in style. Baseball is large, and soccer is large in Japan, too; however me and Rui enjoying in the NBA, that is actually serving to Japanese basketball. And the B League, they’re doing a terrific job, too. … So basketball is getting higher the final three, 4 years.”

A lot is using on that, as NBA Japan’s Sugiura instructed Lewis.

“No query about it, Sugiura stated. “He gave the Japanese basketball youngsters hope. He just isn’t the most athletic man, and was not thought-about as a giant time prospect. But he simply retains working exhausting and discovering his approach to survive in the NBA.

“This is a traditional underdog story Japanese folks admire. Dreams do come true… I imagine he deserved to be much more in style and well-known in Japan, however numerous youngsters who love basketball now have a job mannequin. His title is Yuta Watanabe.”

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