Rui Hachimura’s parents’ names are the source of much speculation, but Gonzaga basketball has gone to great lengths to keep them hidden, largely to preserve their safety, according to the Athletic.
Though the name of his mother and father is not available for public knowledge, there is plenty of information on how they shaped their son, where they live now, where they personally come from, and how they interact with their son today.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Hachimura’s Mother Is Japanese; His Father Is From the West African Country Benin
Hachimura is half Japanese, half Beninese, as his mother is from Japan and his father is from Benin, a country in West Africa. Hachimura’s rise to fame as a multi-racial athlete has been noted by many, especially given how rare that might have been half a century ago. Other similar athletes included Naomi Osaka, who is half Japanese, half Haitan.
The Japan Times explained the new “phenomena” of multi-racial Japanese athletes competing at the highest levels of their sport:
Simply, the number of international marriages between Japanese and foreign nationals have increased, and that’s one of the biggest reasons for the rise of the biracial athletes… In 1965, a total of 4,156 marriages in Japan were between Japanese and non-Japanese, according to Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare figures. But half a century later, the number has risen fivefold; there were a total of 21,488 marriages of which a groom or bride was non-Japanese in 2013 (2007 was the all-time high with 40,272 couples).
So the presence of foreign nationals and multiracial people isn’t such a rarity as contemporary Japanese society has become gradually more open. This holds true in the sporting world as well, as biracial athletes are treated just like the others these days.
2. Hachimura Grew Up in Sendai, Japan, & Will Be One of the Only Japanese Players in the NBA
If predictions about his NBA draft stock hold true, Hachimura will join a small group of elite players from Japan who have made it to the NBA. Last October, Yuta Watanabe became the first Japanese player to join the NBA in 14 years; he now plays for the Grizzlies.
Hachimura hails from Sendai, Japan, where his family still lives. Though he often speaks highly of his heritage in interviews, he did acknowledge the challenge of being “hafu,” or biracial, in Japan. To Bleacher Report, he said of his high school years (when his star was already rising on the basketball court), “They looked at me like a fucking animal or something. It was part of the reason I wanted to come to the U.S. Everybody is different. I thought it would be good for me.”
He added, “People don’t know anything about me here. They just look at me as like another black person. That was so nice. I’m a little bit famous here now, but when I first got here, I really liked it.”
3. Hachimura Has One Sister; His Family Still Lives in Japan
Hachimura has at least one sibling, a sister, and his family is still based in Japan. They have come to visit him in America on a few occasions, including his recruiting trip to Gonzaga, his trip to the final four in 2017, and a collection of games last December.
Per The Spokesman Review, this last visit in December was his sister’s first visit to see him in the United States. Hachimura said to the publication, “So I have to play good…I really wanted them to come, especially my sister because she’s never been here before. This was the first time [my mom] was [in Spokane] for games. I think this is their last time [to see me this season.]”
It’s unclear if his parents or sister will be attending the final four this year, should Gonzaga make it.
4. Hachimura Learned to Speak English at Gonzaga
Hachimura knew virtually no English until he came to Gonzaga, and had to learn all of it while he was in college. Per Bleacher Report, his parents know very little English themselves, and Hachimura often tried to learn by listening to rap music, watching movies like The Fast and the Furious, and working with Gonzaga’s coordinators. One of those coordinators, Stefany Galbraith, said to Bleacher Report, “Rui is our most prized international student. He’s our most improved from where he was at when he arrived.”
Mark Few, Gonzaga’s head coach, acknowledged to Bleacher Report that Hachimura’s language struggles were a challenge at first. He said, “He always has a smile on his face, and he always nods,” Few says. “And I always tell the staff, ‘When he gives you that nod, what it means is he has no idea what the hell you’re talking about.’ That’s zero absorption. We operated that first year under about 10 percent absorption. It was very difficult for him to get on the floor. Yet when he was on the floor, you had this marvelous athlete who was running and jumping and playing and was something to watch.”
Few added, “I’m sure every coach always tells you, This is a great kid, but Rui is a great kid. The sacrifices he made to come over here and learn the language and become a player—all the good things that are happening in his life are well-deserved.”
To ESPN, Hachimura said that his first season was the hardest. “You really can’t communicate,” he said. “That was really hard. That was really stressful. I don’t know how I did that. But I don’t think I’d do the same thing again, if I knew it was going to happen like that. No.”
He added, “I think I faked it a lot.”
Ken Nakagawa, a graduate student and video coordinator for Gonzaga, served as Hachimura’s unofficial translator, too. To ESPN, Nakagawa said,
“His first year was crazy. He’d either be on the court at practice, or he’d be in the classroom studying, or he’d be back in the lab studying with his tutor. He really had no breaks. Through all that, he probably missed, maybe, five workouts outside practice all year. From the get-go, he came up to me and told me, ‘I don’t want to speak Japanese. I want all our communication to be in English.’ We rarely speak Japanese together. Even when we grab something to eat or we’re just hanging out, we’re always speaking English.”
5. Hachimura Is a Top NBA Draft Prospect
If his draft stock holds, Rui Hachimura is expected to be drafted in the top 20 of the NBA draft in 2019. Via the official NBA mock draft, Hachimura is currently predicted to be picked fourth, with the NBA predicted he gets drafted by the Chicago Bulls.