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Gavin Edwards, a late addition to the Japan team, excited about the Olympic opportunity

When a series of retreats for the Japan men’s national basketball team began weeks ago, it was believed Gavin Edwards was from the outside looking in when it came to the only place allowed for a naturalized Japanese citizen.

But head coach Julio Lamas surprised many and ended up picking Edwards over Ryan Rossiter for his final 12-man roster for the Tokyo Olympics.

“I’m just very excited. It is certainly a great honor because being part of the final 12-man roster is a great achievement, because there are some great players who were in the field, “Edwards told reporters in a recent online interview.” And I think everyone really played. hard and I think we can put it together. We have put together a really good team and we are working to make everyone proud and really happy. “

In 2018, Nick Fazekas naturalized to become Japanese and helped the country’s men’s national team book a place in the 2019 FIBA ​​World Cup. At that time, many thought he would be the choice for the Olympics.

But that plan changed once Rossiter and Edwards obtained their Japanese passports.

Rossiter obtained a Japanese passport in December 2019 and a few weeks later Edwards, a Chiba Jets Funabashi player, also became a citizen.

Lamas, who led his native Argentina to a fourth place as team leader at the 2012 London Olympics, said Edwards’ versatile play, which makes him a threat even off the paint, was one of the main reasons he got him. chosen.

“Gavin can help us with his 3-point shots, fade shots and rebounds,” Lamas said. “We selected him hoping that he could establish a good chemistry with Yuta (Watanabe of the Toronto Raptors) and Rui (Hachimura of the Washington Wizards).”

Japan striker Gavin Edwards dunks against Hungary in an exhibition match at Okinawa Arena on 7 July.  JAPAN BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION |  JAPANESE BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION
Japan striker Gavin Edwards dunks against Hungary in an exhibition match at Okinawa Arena on 7 July. JAPAN BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION | JAPANESE BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION

Edwards averaged 14.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game and shot 38.3% from over the arc in his eight-year career in Japan.

Edwards said the close battle between the two American-born players was “embarrassing” and that Rossiter congratulated him after the announcement of the team.

“But, I think it went really well. We got along really well, “said the 206cm big forward, whose father is former NFL defender Earl Edwards.” And we just competed and we both left out there and I just happened to be picked. But yes, it happened that it went my way, but he played really well and he definitely deserved to be there. “

Edwards, a native of Gilbert, Arizona, is no stranger to playing on a big stage. The 33-year-old, who helped the Jets win the 2020-21 B. League title, played for the prestigious University of Connecticut team for four years. Edwards and future NBA star Kemba Walker helped the Huskies reach the NCAA Final Four in 2009.

Walker, who was recently traded from the Boston Celtics to the Oklahoma City Thunder, represented the United States at the 2019 World Cup but was not part of the squad for Tokyo, ending any chance for the two former college teammates to reunite. . Edwards and Walker played together for two years under the guidance of legendary manager Jim Calhoun.

“I love him,” Edwards said of Walker. “He’s probably the best teammate I’ve ever had because he was a great and complete guy. He was a hard worker on the pitch, off the pitch. So I definitely enjoyed it.

“We actually lived in the same apartment for two years. So I was looking forward to seeing him at the games, but unfortunately he didn’t make it. So I’m definitely sad that he wasn’t able to make it. I was cheering for him and all, but I just have to wait until late to see him, I guess. “

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