- Johnny Esfeller
IMG Academy alumni Wataru Igari signs with Fukushima Firebonds of Japanese BJ League
IMG Academy alumnus Wataru Igari signed a deal with Japanese professional team Fukushima Firebonds of the BJ League. Igari was enrolled as a post-graduate at IMG Academy, and was one of eight students to earn an opportunity to train in the United State through the Slam Dunk Scholarship progam. Igari played high school basketball for Noshiro Kogyo High School, regarded as the preeminent basketball power in Japan. During his year at IMG Academy, Igari led thePG Blue team in assists with 2.8 per game, including eight games with five or more assists, and was second on the team in steals with 14 on the year.
Igari stated via Facebook: "After a long hard thought on the choices I had, I've decided to play professional basketball in Japan. I'd like to thank my friends, teammates, family, coaches and all of the people who have helped me get to this point. It was never an easy path and I'm certain it will not be from here on as well. However, I'll take it step by step and one day, I hope to challenge the big stages again in the states. Can't wait to see what my next chapter holds!"
Earlier in the year, Igari verbally committed to Division-I Florida A&M University to play basketball amid several D-I offers. But the decision to turn pro and sign with the Firebonds marks a homecoming for Igari, who is a native of Iwaka City, located in the Fukushima prefecture of northeast Japan. The Slam Dunk Scholarship program was started by Mr. Takehiko Inoue, a best-selling author and illustrator most known for his work on Slam Dunk and Vagabond, to provide more aspiring Japanese basketball players with opportunities to maximize their potential in the sport.
Photo by: IMG Academy/Casey Brooke-Lawson