Yuki Togashi of the Dallas Mavericks’ Las Vegas Summer League team has been garnering attention all week in Las Vegas. Who is Yuki, and how did he get here? A guest post from Bryce Olin tells a little bit about Togashi’s story.
I’m sure there’s an actual toga party going on somewhere in Las Vegas right now; I’d probably guess Caesar’s Palace for obvious reasons. But the most important “Toga” party in town for basketball fans is the one put on by the Dallas Mavericks’ Yuki “Toga” Togashi on Wednesday afternoon against the Charlotte Hornets.
Earlier in the week, HP’s Zach Bennett pondered why Togashi was even on the Mavs’ roster, as it was impossible to see what the former All-Star Game MVP of the Japan BJ-league could bring to the NBA. Well, the 5’7” Japanese point guard finally proved why the Mavs picked him up for their summer league team: Toga is J.J. Barea 2.0.
Togashi had gone scoreless in his first two games with the Mavs in Vegas. But in the first round of tournament bracket play, Toga scored 12 points on five-of-seven shooting in only ten minutes of action, capped off with a beautiful floater in the lane over an outstretched Jordan Bachynski as the shot clock expired. To put it in perspective, Bachynski is a good 17 inches taller than Yogashi.
While it’s great to see an underdog do well in summer league, Yuki’s story has gotten lost in the buzz he generates every time he’s stepped on the court in Las Vegas. Who is this guy? Where did he come from?
The route to the NBA Summer League has been an unconventional one for Toga. He played high school basketball in the United States at Montrose Christian, Kevin Durant’s alma mater. According to Ed Odeven of the Japan Times, Togashi didn’t receive any Division I scholarship offers, and after graduating high school in 2013, he returned to Japan to play professionally for the Akita Northern Happinets. That was only 14 months ago.
In those 14 months, Toga took the Japanese league by storm. In his rookie season with Akita, Togashi led the league with 7.6 assists per game and also averaged 15.3 points per game. en route to guiding his team to a runner-up finish in the league. In the title game, Toga scored 30 points in a losing effort. After the season, Toga became the youngest player in Japan-BJ League history to be named to the Best Five Team, basically the JBJ’s version of First Team All-NBA. Based on his performance, the Mavericks took a chance and added him to their summer league roster.
Now, just over a year removed from not receiving any interest from Division I schools, Togashi is playing in the NBA’s summer league against NBA players and D-leaguers. That’s an unreal leap. This wasn’t a Jeremy Tyler or Brandon Jennings situation, where Toga moved away to avoid playing college basketball. Literally no one stateside could see his talent, so he moved back to Japan to play.
And, to be fair, it’s not like Togashi is tearing it up in Las Vegas. He’s averaging 4.0 points per game, though he’s only played 20 minutes total in three games. But just reaching this stage is something of a victory for Togashi; the fact that he was able to put on a show against legit D-League competition proves he’s got some game.
Who knows if the 20-year-old will actually find a home in the NBA or the D-League. Five days ago, no one really knew who this guy was or that he was capable of playing as well as he did against the Hornets. Maybe in a few years he’ll be the catalyst off the bench in the NBA Finals, just like Barea was for the Mavs in 2011. Only time will tell. And it’s nice to dream.
After losing to the Hornets on a buzzer beater Wednesday, the Mavs have one more game on Friday at 4 p.m. ET. That means Toga has one more chance, probably about ten minutes rather, to make an impact and, hopefully, force his way onto a D-league roster.
Please, please, Mark Cuban, don’t let this Toga party to end.