A popular theme in Japanese comic novels (or manga) is the tale of a basketball player that overcomes a variety of challenges to ascend to the highest levels of the game. Kuroko’s Basketball, the current reigning title in the genre, features a blue-haired, undersized baller specializing in high speed play and picture-perfect assists.
Aside from the hair color, real-life player Yuki “Toga” Togashi matches Kuroko’s description. So who, pray tell, is Yuki Togashi?
— 富樫勇樹 (@YukiTogashi) May 11, 2013
Togashi is a 5′ 7″ point guard from Niigata Prefecture, Japan. His talent for basketball outpaced the local competition, so as a teen he was sent to the United States to develop his game. Togashi starred for three years at Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Maryland — the same high school school that nurtured Kevin Durant — but he failed to attract any Division I scholarship offers.
Last year, Togashi played for the Akita Northen Happinets in his home country’s pro basketball league and was named the All-Star Game MVP. Overnight, he become a household name in Japan. A Dallas Mavericks scout was tipped off on Toga’s ascension and extended him an offer to attend Summer League training camp. Togashi took advantage of the opportunity, making the team’s final cut against J.R. Smith’s younger brother, Chris.
Togashi made a major splash on American sports pages this past week as a fan favorite in the NBA Summer League. Just twenty-one years of age, he looks closer to twelve and makes a compelling figure driving the lane against players with twice his bulk. It’s a long shot, but if he manages to secure a spot on the Mavs’ regular-season roster, he will likely become a star from Waco to Warsaw.
Basketball’s popularity in Japan was driven by the manga, and not the other way around. In addition to Kuroko’s Basketball, well-known titles include Buzzer Beater, Dash Kappei, Dear Boys, and Slam Dunk. If Togashi were to dye his hair blue, he would be a casting agent’s dream to play the lead role in a live-action adaptation of Kuroko’s Basketball…