Avi Koki Schafer is very, very tall. He’s 6’10”, to be exact. And he will be putting his height to good use — he’s set to play on the Japan men’s basketball team in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (taking place, yes, in 2021). Here are 18 things to know about the Jewish Japanese basketball center:
1. Avi Koki Schafer was born in Suita, Osaka, Japan, on January 28, 1998.
2. He holds dual citizenship — Japanese and American. His dad, Douglas, is American, and his mom, Sayuki, is Japanese. He speaks both Japanese and English.
3. “When I came to Japan I had no kids and very little to lose,” Douglas says. “I had not planned on being here this long.” Then, he met Sayuki, fell in love, stayed in Japan, and has three kids.
5. In Japan, he attended Kobe University Secondary School in Higashinada-ku, Kobe, and St. Mary’s International School in Tokyo.
6. He switched from playing soccer to basketball in 10th grade, when he was 16.
7. Avi Schafer made his Japan national team debut in 2016, and has been a regular on the roster since. Before 2016, he never considered a pro career.
9. “Before that, I was only thinking about going to college for academics, maybe play basketball for fun. I wasn’t thinking pro or anything,” Avi said. “And then, that game actually made me think, ‘Ok, I could go to Division I [in the U.S.], I could actually try out for it. That’s where I decided to go to a prep school, that’s where I decided to go to Georgia Tech after that. Obviously [I ended up playing for] the national team.”
10. During his senior year in 2016-2017, he went to Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. There, he helped lead the team to the national prep school championship. He wears #32:
11. He committed to Georgia Tech to play basketball, and played in four games his freshman year (2017) and two games his sophomore year (2018). He left after his sophomore fall to go pro in Japan.
I am officially leaving Georgia Tech to play professional in Japan. I’m very thankful for everyone that supported me with my decision. I’m gonna miss every second I spent here with the team but I’m extremely excited for my new life that is waiting for me.
Thank you Georgia Tech. pic.twitter.com/rO4nCHwEot
— シェーファーアヴィ幸樹 Avi Schafer (@avi_schafer) December 19, 2018
12. Here’s his dad’s proud Facebook post about Avi going pro:
13. He now plays for Seahorses Mikawa, based in Kariya, Aichi, Japan. He’s still wearing #32.
15. Because everything is on the internet forever, you can watch Avi in a group presentation for his English class in 2017. It’s about protagonists in Brazilian cinema. Enjoy!
17. At the FIBA World Cup held in 2019, Avi was the youngest player in Japanese national team history to participate in the tournament.
18. Avi will be playing as a center on Japan’s Olympic Basketball team at their hometown Olympics, and is beyond excited to be part of the 12-man team. He said after making the team (translated from Japanese): “I’m really happy to be selected as an Olympic member. When I came back to Japan from the United States and decided to become a professional in Japan, I made the decision with an eye on the Olympics. I’ve been aiming for the Olympics for the next few years, so I’m really happy to be selected as a member. It is held in my home country and I want to show Japanese people what I can do.”
Bonus! An Avi Schafer custom trading card!!