Forward Yuta Watanabe, who impressed during his stint with the Brooklyn Nets in Summer League play, signed a 2-way deal Friday with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Undrafted rookie forward Yuta Watanabe played well for the Brooklyn Nets during the Las Vegas Summer League and has parlayed that performance into a two-way deal with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Watanabe signed with the Grizzlies on Friday after averaging 9.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 24.0 minutes per game for the Nets in Vegas.
The Grizzlies announced the signing on their website and Michael Wallace of Grizzlies.com’s Grind City Media had the signing first, via Twitter.
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Watanabe shot .410/.333/8-for-8 in five Summer League games and turned some heads with his knack for being around the ball on the defensive end. His 6-foot-9, 205-pound frame belied a shot blocker’s timing and instinct and his positional defense, playing primarily as a stretch 4, was solid.
That was a new role for Watanabe, who played primarily small forward, as well as some at the shooting guard, as a three-year starter at George Washington, where he was named the Atlantic-10 Defensive Player of the Year as a senior.
He averaged 16.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 36.6 minutes per game last season for the Colonials on .437/.364/.807 shooting.
A native of Kagawa, Japan, Watanabe also plays for the Japanese national team, getting his senior team indoctrination as an 18-year-old at the 2013 Asia Cup, where he averaged 5.2 points in 8.5 minutes per game in four games, shooting 4-for-9/0-for-2/5-for-7.
His most recent experience for Team Japan was in Olympic qualifying play in Serbia in 2016, where he averaged 7.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks in 22.6 minutes a game in two games, going 5-for-13/0-for-3/4-for-4.
On a two-way contract, Watanabe can spend up to 45 days on the Grizzlies’ roster, with the count beginning when the G-League’s Memphis Hustle begin training camp this fall and ending when the Hustle’s regular season is concluded.
Watanabe was the first Japanese-born player to earn an NCAA Division I scholarship when he enrolled at George Washington and over his four-year career, he played in 134 games, starting 107, and averaged 10.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 30.1 minutes a game on .425/.337/788 shooting.
The Colonials twice qualified for postseason play while Watanabe was there, playing in the 2017 College Basketball Invitational and winning the 2016 National Invitation Tournament.