On June 20, 2019, Rui Hachimura became the first Japanese national to be drafted in the first round. When he steps on the court to play his first game, he will become only the third Japanese-born player to do so, and he’s widely considered the country’s best prospect ever. It’s a monumental achievement for an athlete who first fell in love with baseball, not basketball (his name is inspired by the word for “baseball base” in Japanese). Hoopers who like a bat and glove are nothing new to Jordan Brand, though.

Rui, who is half Beninese, started playing basketball at 13 years old, thanks to a friend who had been nagging him for days to try it out. In middle school, Rui’s coach said that he would go to the NBA, and soon after, while he played for Japanese national teams, others were making the same prediction. He entered the U.S. spotlight when he played at the Jordan Brand Classic’s international game in 2015.

Four years later, Rui was named the top small forward in Division 1 men’s basketball in 2019 and was named the top player in his conference in 2019. Now, standing at 6’8” and roughly 230 pounds, he averaged 19.7 points per game on 59.1 percent shooting and 6.5 rebounds per game during his junior season in college.

Rui reached great heights throughout his collegiate career, all while learning English as a second language. He says that although his teammates and coaches helped, he also learned a lot from listening to hip-hop, watching TV and playing video games.

Rui might have left his family thousands of miles away to chase his dream of playing professional basketball, but this week, he got two new families — his new team and Jordan Brand. Get to know how Rui feels going into this next chapter, below.

How does it feel to now be a part of the Jordan Brand family?

It’s a very special feeling. Jordan Brand is one of the top companies in the world, so it’s amazing to be a part of it.

Japan has a rich sneaker culture. What are some of your favorite Air Jordans?

Originally, the Air Jordan 12 was my favorite. Now, I like the Air Jordan 3.

Who is your favorite Jordan Brand athlete (besides MJ)?

I like Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony.

Carmelo Anthony and Rui Hachimura at Nike WHQ

There is a certain style and swagger that comes with being a Jordan Brand athlete. How do you describe that?

It’s clean, powerful and influential yet simple.

What are you most excited about going into your rookie season?

It’s all about winning and bringing energy every day in practice and games.