Ryuji Yazawa was a college basketball player from Coach Anzai's days of being a basketball coach.
A talented player, Yazawa trained under Anzai, and was held in high regard by him. However, Yazawa was unhappy with Anzai's tough training (especially the repetitive and strenuous basic training), and against his wish, left Japan to play in the USA, where he thought he would have better opportunities to show his talent. A year passed without any news, other than an unaddressed videotape showing Yazawa playing in a team whose players had virtually no concept of teamwork. Yazawa also showed no sign of improvement in the tape. One day Anzai learned from the press that Yazawa had died in a high-speed head-on car collision, reportedly under drug influence. While visiting Yazawa's grave, Yazawa's mother gave Anzai a letter written four years prior, which Yazawa had never had the courage to post. In the letter, Yazawa expressed profound regret about his rebellious decision to leave and the depression from his experience in the unsupportive American college basketball world.
This incident precipitated Coach Anzai's transformation from the "White-Haired Devil" to the "White-Haired Buddha", and is the reason why he refused to let Kaede Rukawa go to America.