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Mavericks have high hopes for Japanese-born player

His chances of playing in an NBA game may not be as good as three of his high school alumni. But all Yuki Togashi wants is a chance.

Togashi’s lifelong dream inched closer to reality Wednesday when the pint-sized point guard signed a one-year contract with the Dallas Mavericks.

A 5-foot-7, 143-pound native of Niigata, Japan, Togashi averaged 16.3 points and a league-high 7.6 assists in 58 games last season for Akita Northern of the Japan Basketball League (JBL).

The plan is for Togashi to remain with the Mavs throughout training camp, then play in Frisco for the Texas Legends of the D-League.

“We’ve got a limited window to take a look,” said Donnie Nelson, who doubles as the owner of the Legends and president of basketball operations for the Mavs. “But really his opportunities are going to be with the Texas Legends.

“I’d say it’s a long shot at best for him to make [an NBA] roster right now. But it’s an opportunity for him to make his dream come true in reality to play for the Legends and, like so many guys before him, to use this as a springboard to get in the league.”

Coach Rick Carlisle likes what Togashi brings to the table.

“He knows how to play, he’s quick,” Carlisle said. “He’s got a charisma when he plays.

“For some different reasons — visa and stuff like that — it took awhile to get him over here. But we’re happy to have him here.”

Togashi, 21, was at American Airlines Center on Wednesday, but didn’t go through the team’s practice session.

“There still are some details we’ve got to get in order with his signing, but we like Yuki a lot,” Carlisle said. “He’s very fast, he has a good knowledge of the game and he can shoot.”

In four games for the Mavs in Las Vegas in the summer league in July, Togashi averaged 5.3 points and 1.3 rebounds, and shot 46.7 percent from the field.

“I’ve played in Japan, but I’ve never played against American point guards, except in the D-League,” Togashi said. “So it’s going to be a great experience.”

Prior to playing in the JBL, Togashi graduated from the same Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Md., that produced NBA players Kevin Durant, Grevis Vasquez and Terrence Ross.

While playing in the JBL last season, Togashi shot 42 percent from the floor, 48 percent from 3-point range and had a 3-to-1 ratio of assists to turnovers.

Because he is so small, Togashi is a liability on defense. But noting that Muggsy Bogues (5-3), Earl Boykins (5-5) and Spud Webb (5-7) all had extensive NBA careers despite their stature, Nelson isn’t ruling out anything.

“Spud’s our president [of the Texas Legends] and he’s at every game,” Nelson said. “So I’m sure he’ll have an opportunity to pick up some pearls from a true Texas Legend, and that’s Spud Webb.”

Togashi is trying to become the second Japanese-born player to play in the NBA. Point guard Yuta Tabuse (5-9) was the first when he played four games for the Phoenix Suns during the 2004-05 season. Tabuse joined the Suns after becoming the first Japanese-born player to play in an NBA summer league game when he played six contests for the Mavs.

As far as Togashi goes, forward Dirk Nowitzki said: “I’ve never seen him play. I heard he was in the summer league and was really good, really fast.

“Obviously, he’s really agile at that size. So we’ll see what he’s got.”

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