In the Land of the Rising Sun a Waimanalo native is gearing up for a run at the Olympic games.
Former State Player of the Year, Iolani graduate Hugh Hogland has earned a spot on the 12-man roster for Japan’s basketball team at the pandemic delayed 2020 Olympics in Tokyo starting later this month.
“Tenth grade I remember writing down in Japanese class that I wanted to become an Olympian. At the time I thought it was going to be for volleyball but here we are in basketball for the Japan national team and I’m just glad that dream came true,” Hogland told KHON2 Sports Director Rob DeMello. “It’s all for my family. I’ve played in the states my whole life, so my dad’s family has gotten to watch me a lot, especially in Portland because my Dad is from Oregon, but now I have a chance to show my mom’s side of the family what I’ve been doing my entire life which is being an athlete, just to show them hey I’m doing this all for my family and friends so it’s a special moment for sure.”
On the Japan roster, Hogland is listed under his mother’s maiden name of Watanabe which provides Hugh an opportunity to honor his heritage as a dual citizen of both Japan and the United States.
“I have a lot of pride from both sides of my family. My grandfather was an NFL player and the Hogland name means a lot to me too but to wear the Watanabe sir name, it gives my mom some immense amount of pride and just to see her smile, it’s everything,” said Hogland.
While at Iolani, Hogland helped lead the Raiders to four state tournament appearances, state championships in 2014 and 2016, and a runner up finish in 2015. The three-time All-Interscholastic League of Honolulu First Team honoree averaged 15.5 points, 10.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 3.1 blocks per game as a senior.
“You could ask coach Dean Shimamoto and Cord Anderson about this but I was a bit of a diva at Iolani. I thought I was the guy but since then the four years in college has taught me a lot about humility, about really just putting your nose down and not focusing on anything except the things you can control and I think that’s the biggest thing that I’ve grown in. My game is still kind of the same from Iolani. I’m still a shot blocker, still shooting hook shots, maybe got a jump shot now but mentally it’s completely different.”
Hogland, who started his collegiate career at Portland is currently in Okinawa where the Japan national team is playing pre-Olympic friendly games through July 11. Originally selected to the 20 man Olympic roster, Hogland survived several rounds of cuts prior to the 12 man roster being selected for the Olympics. A journey that Hogland hopes the next generation of basketball players from Hawaii take gain confidence from.
“You don’t have to be scared of anything. Sometimes they say Hawaii teams are not as good as mainland teams but heck in my class alone we had Jessiya Villa, Samuta Avea, and I think if my best friend Kamakana Winquist who played at Maryknoll freshman year, if he stayed then he would have been a collegiate player too. So, anyone from Hawaii, anything is possible. Just come in with some confidence.”
After graduating from Portland in 2020, Hogland transferred to play at UC Davis for the 2020-21 where due to COVID-19 eligibility rules he would have had two seasons of eligibility with the Aggies but after one year with the Aggies, Hogland decided to forego his final year of college eligibility and turn pro. In June, he signed his rookie contract with the Ryukyu Golden Kings in the Japan first division, known as the “B.League.
The delayed 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo are set to begin with opening ceremonies on July 23 running through closing ceremonies on August 8. Japan’s basketball schedule gets underway on on July 26 against Spain at 2:00am HST. According to Hogland, be on the lookout for a shaka held high and proud from Tokyo.
“Thank you to everyone. Thank you to Iolani, thank you to St. John Vianney, thank you to everyone that has been on this journey with me. I could not have done it without you guys. It’s just all gratefulness and I’m going to try my best to represent the islands and Japan the best way that I can.”