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Hawaii hoopsters Jacobs, Watanabe make Japan’s Olympic team

STEPHEN TSAI / STSAI@STARADVERTIER.COM
                                Akira Jacobs, a 6-foot-8 wing, competed for Japan in the 2023 FIBA U19 World Cup in Hungary.
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STEPHEN TSAI / STSAI@STARADVERTIER.COM

Akira Jacobs, a 6-foot-8 wing, competed for Japan in the 2023 FIBA U19 World Cup in Hungary.

University of Hawaii basketball forward Akira Jacobs and ‘Iolani School alumnus Hugh (Hogland) Watanabe will be representing Japan in the Paris 2024 Olympics.

“It’s still kind of hard to believe,” Jacobs said in a telephone interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “It’s always been a dream of mine. It’s pretty cool. The Olympics is the best of the best in the world. I think we have more work to do in the short amount of time. We’ll do our best to perform well in the competition.”

There were 24 players invited to the tryouts in Tokyo last month. The list then was pared to 16, with the final 12-player roster set after an exhibition game on Saturday.

“We’ve been following his progress, and he’s been checking in through the journey,” UH coach Eran Ganot said. “What a special moment this is for him, for his family, for his country and, obviously for us — the university, the state, the people of Hawaii — taking us along for a pretty cool ride.”

Jacobs, who grew up in Japan and California, attended a program in Australia ahead of joining the Rainbow Warriors as a freshman this past season.

Watanabe, who grew up in Waimanalo, played college basketball for Portland and UC Davis. As a member of Japan’s national team, he competed in the 2021 Olympics.

Japan will play “friendlies” — exhibition games — against Finland, Serbia and Poland ahead of the Olympics. Japan opens against Germany, featuring Orlando Magic’s Franz Wagner and Moritz Wagner. After that, Japan will play France, led by Victor Wembanyama and Rudy Gobert.

Former UH forward Zigmars Raimo is a member of Latvia’s Olympic 3-on-3 basketball team.

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