The Hub: You were recruited by a bunch D-1 schools out of high school and you ended up at George Washington. Why did you choose GW?
Watanabe: A lot of schools recruited me, (but) when I visited GW I liked the coaching staff. And then I watched a game and liked how the team played. At the time, I think GW had five international players. With me being an international player, I thought that I would feel very comfortable there.
The Hub: You described Connecticut as the “middle of nowhere.” How was Washington, D.C. different?
Watanabe: That was a big difference. My hometown is also countryside and there’s nothing there. So being in D.C. was a whole different, new experience. But I really enjoyed it. It was fun. You can see (D.C.) is a beautiful city.
The Hub: Did you have a “coming to America moment” that made you realize this was a lot different from where you’re from?
Watanabe: Not just in D.C., but people are more friendly here (in America). When I’m walking down the street people always come talk to me to say how tall I am or ask if I play basketball. That doesn’t really happen in Japan. So I was like, “Wow, this is different!”
The Hub: Asians playing basketball at a high level in the United States is a rarity. Have you faced any discrimination or other challenges on the court?
Watanabe: Not really. I don’t really care about that type of stuff. I just came to play basketball. I know some people face those challenges. But I haven’t yet. I might face them in the future but I’m not going to care about that now. I’m just going to play basketball.