J. R. Sakuragi

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J. R. Sakuragi
Sakuragi with the Aisin Seahorses in 2016
No. 32 – SeaHorses Mikawa
Personal information
Born (1976-10-30) October 30, 1976 (age 42)
Bakersfield, California
NationalityAmerican / Japanese
Listed height6 ft 8 in (2.03 m)
Listed weight226 lb (103 kg)
Career information
High schoolEast Bakersfield
(East Bakersfield, California)
CollegeUCLA (1994–1998)
NBA draft1998 / Round: 2 / Pick: 56th overall
Selected by the Vancouver Grizzlies
Playing career1998–present
Career history
1998–1999Quad City Thunder
1999Vancouver Grizzlies
1999–2001Las Vegas Silver Bandits
2001Paris Basket Racing
2001Marinos de Oriente
2001–2005Aisin Seahorses
2005Marinos de Anzoátegui
2006Grises de Humacao
2006–2007Aisin Seahorses
2007Grises de Humacao
2007–presentAisin Seahorses
Career highlights and awards

J. R. Sakuragi (桜木 ジェイアール, Sakuragi Jeiāru, born Milton Henderson Jr.; October 30, 1976), is an American Japanese professional basketball player.

Raised in Bakersfield, Sakuragi played college basketball at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and was a member of their national championship team in 1994–95. On the NCAA championship team in his freshman year, Sakuragi was named the team's most valuable freshman along with Toby Bailey.[1] He was named to the All-Pac-10 first team during his sophomore and senior seasons,[2] and was also named the Bruins' co-most valuable player both years as well.[3] He averaged 14.2 points per game in his four-year career at the school. He was selected by the Vancouver Grizzlies in the 2nd round (56th pick) of the 1998 NBA Draft where he played one season.[4]

Sakuragi played the next two years for teams in Las Vegas and France and summer-league teams in Puerto Rico and the Philippines.[5] In 2001, he moved to Japan to play for the Aisin Seahorses of the JBL Super League, averaging 21.5 points and 11.6 rebounds per game in 2006.[4]

Sakuragi's application to become a naturalized Japanese citizen cleared on July 2, 2007, and he changed his name from J. R. Henderson to J. R. Sakuragi.[4][6] He chose his new name for two reasons: firstly, he thought a Japanese name would speed up the naturalization, and secondly for the Japanese sakura cherry blossoms. It also corresponded to the name of Hanamichi Sakuragi, the protagonist of the popular basketball manga Slam Dunk.[5]

Sakuragi played for the Japan national team as they competed in the 2007 FIBA Asia Championship, a qualifier for the 2008 Summer Olympics.[7]

To comply with Japanese naturalization requirements, Sakuragi taught himself to read, speak and write Japanese at a "rudimentary level". He plans to stay in Japan and has no intention of returning to the U.S. soon.[5]


  1. ^ Finney, Ryan (2010). "2010–11 UCLA Men's Basketball Media Guide" (PDF). UCLA Athletic Department. p. 111. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 10, 2011.
  2. ^ Finney 2010, p. 105.
  3. ^ Finney 2010, p. 110.
  4. ^ a b c Kaz Nagatsuka, Former UCLA player gets Japanese citizenship, spot on national hoops team, The Japan Times, July 17, 2007.
  5. ^ a b c Former Bruin is now Japan’s J.R. Sakuragi, Los Angeles Times, January 21, 2008.
  6. ^ Jerry Crowe, Former Bruin a true citizen of the world, Los Angeles Times, July 24, 2007.
  7. ^ Jerry Crowe, Former Bruin finds security in his adopted homeland, Los Angeles Times, July 24, 2007.

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