Former GW basketball teammates duel in Olympic play

Media Credit: File Photo by Ethan Stoler | Contributing Photo Editor

GW is one of 11 schools in the country to have multiple former players competing in the Olympics.

Former GW basketball teammates Yuta Watanabe and Patricio Garino will face off in Olympic play Sunday.

Watanabe will represent the host nation Japan, qualifying for the tournament for the first time since 1976, while Garino will represent Argentina. Though both teams have failed to advance to the knockout round, the former Colonials will hope to capture the first win of the tournament for their respective nations in group stage play.

GW is one of 11 schools in the country to have multiple former basketball players competing in the Olympics, alongside universities like Duke, Kentucky, UCLA, Virginia, Arizona, UConn, Georgia Tech, Seton Hall, Washington State and Saint Mary’s.

“To have Yuta and Patricio there competing on the world’s biggest stage for men’s basketball is validation of everything we’re trying to do here at GW,” head coach Jamion Christian said in a release. “They are lifelong members of the GW family and embody the international flair and opportunity of coming to school in the World’s Most Powerful City. Best of luck to Yuta and Patricio as we watch them Raise High globally.”

During his tenure at GW, Watanabe was named A-10 Defensive Player in 2018 and scored 1,460 career points. He was selected twice for the A-10 All-Defensive team in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons and was the recipient of both the Patricio Garino Defensive Award and the Mike Brown MVP Award in 2018.

Watanabe signed with the NBA’s Toronto Raptors back in April, making him the first Colonial to sign a contract with the NBA in four years and the second Japanese-born player ever to play in the NBA.

He put up career numbers with the Raptors in the 2020-21 season heading into his Olympic debut representing the host nation. In his starting season, Watanabe has averaged 4.4 points per game with 3.2 rebounds and an 8.9 player impact estimate.

Prior to his Olympic debut, Watanabe played for the Japanese national team in 2013 where they placed third in the East Asian Basketball Association Championship. In 2016, Watanabe performed in the Olympic Qualifiers for the national team but Japan ultimately did not qualify.

As a Colonial, Garino netted 1,550 career points, was named to the A-10 All-Defensive team three straight years and was also selected for the All A-10 Second Team in his final year. He made his Olympic debut with the Argentine national team during the 2016 Rio Olympics, helping his team advance past the group stage before suffering a quarterfinal loss to the United States.

Garino won a gold medal with the squad in the 2019 Pan American Games and a silver medal at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in the same year. He briefly spent time in the NBA as well, playing for the Orlando Magic and the Austin Spurs in the G League.

He played three seasons with the Spanish club Saski Baskonia before signing with Žalgiris Kaunas of the Lithuanian Basketball League in July 2020. He recently parted ways with the team in the same month of this year.

Japan and Argentina are slated to tipoff at 1:40 p.m. Sunday for the final round of the group stage.

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