Readers’ pick: Yuta Watanabe
If you take a look at this season’s men’s basketball stats, one name stands out – Yuta Watanabe.
The senior guard’s offensive hustle on the court and ability to defend opponents in multiple positions made him this year’s pick for Best Male Athlete.
Watanabe led the Colonials in scoring overall and tallied double figures in 20 consecutive games this season. He also led the team in three-point shooting (.369) and free throw percentage (.789).
The 6-foot-9-inch guard became the first player in program history to win the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year award this season. He led the team with 54 blocks and racked up 26 steals in his final year in Foggy Bottom.
Watanabe is known for his leadership and emotion on the court, which was evident by his tearful goodbye on Senior Night against Fordham in February. The guard’s best moment of the season also came in that game, when he poured in a career-high 31 points and left the court with a standing ovation in GW’s 72-56 win over the Rams.
Before he stepped onto the Smith Center floor for the first time in 2014, Watanabe was already making history. He was the third Japanese-born player to earn a Division I scholarship.
Four years later, Watanabe has become one of the figureheads of the men’s basketball program and a fan favorite on campus.
The Kagawa, Japan native ranks second in program history in blocks (147) and games played (134), while his 1,460 career points rank 15th all time.
As a sophomore, Watanabe was part of the program’s winningest team, helping the squad to a 28-10 record and contributing a team-high four blocks in the program’s first NIT Championship win.
He improved his scoring every year as a Colonial, culminating with averages of 16.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game in his senior season – up from 7.4 points per game as a freshman. Watanabe started all 33 games this season and was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Conference Third Team for the first time in his career.
On stature and stats alone, Watanabe has scored big, earning the fans’ hearts and best male athlete title this year.