The Japan Times will be featuring periodic interviews with players in Japan’s bj-league — the nation’s first pro basketball circuit — which has started its second season. Mikey Marshall of the Oita HeatDevils is the subject of this week’s profile.
Hometown: Tulia, Texas
YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO
Q: At what age did you start playing basketball?
Marshall: Organized basketball . . . it was in the third grade. It was a long time ago, ages ago. (Laughs).
Was it something that came natural to you?
Yeah, I think so. I followed my brothers and my dad. Both of my brothers ended up going to junior college and playing basketball, so I just kind of wanted to follow in their footsteps, so to speak.
What is the best compliment you’ve ever received from a coach, teammate or opponent?
I think (Texas Tech) Coach (Bobby) Knight used to just preach about being all-around instead of being one-dimensional. . . . Coach Knight used to just preach about me doing the little things, like just to help win. So I think that’s stuck with me since college. I think that’s a good motivation to go from.
What’s it like to be in this league during its infancy?
I think it’s a good league. I really didn’t know what to expect the first time I came over here.
I’ve only played in England my first year out (of college), and it was only three Americans and one foreigner.
The league over here is good. We have more Americans, and that’s not necessarily why the league is good. We have great Japanese players over here. . . . All-around, top to bottom, it’s a good league.
We haven’t even gone through half the season yet and it’s been brutal.
Who is your favorite player outside of the bj-league?
I just like following the games now. I really don’t have one now. (He said Michael Jordan used to be his favorite player.) . . . I just followed it now to see if I can learn from different players. I’m only 25, so there’s still stuff out there that you can learn.
What can the bj-league do to become more popular in Japan?
There’s always advertising. I see that they advertise on TV and things like that, but I think that’s just the main focus, (more) advertising.
They do a pretty good job of that, but like back home in the States, there’s advertisements everywhere — in the neighborhoods, newspapers, wherever — and I think that’s just the big key to making something popular.
How has HeatDevils head coach Dai Oketani helped you become a better player?
I know a lot of people come around talking about a player’s coach, but he really is. He’s real laid back, but at the same time when you are doing something wrong he’ll let you know.
I think that helps a lot of people, and I think there’s a big upside to that because if you can relate to your players you are going to have that much more respect for your coach.
He’s a great coach, real intense during the games, during practice, when he has to be, but he knows when to take his foot off that pedal.
Do you see similarities between Oketani and Coach Knight?
Both of them are great coaches. Personally, I don’t like to compare people.
Coach Knight has his reputation and Coach Oketani is going to develop his. This is his first year. Right now, he’s a new coach, so he has to earn his respect.
He’s earned the respect of his players. (Now) it’s just earning it from everyone else.
In your own words, what characteristics define your style of play?
I don’t want to be one-dimensional. I just want to help the team however I can. . . . As long as we win, I really don’t care what my game is — like how I look personally.
What has been your biggest thrill as a basketball player?
I think (it was) in high school, when I got to play with my two older brothers (Tim and Philip Marshall).
I was a freshman in high school (at Tulia High School in Texas) and we got to go to state, and we ended up losing in the state championship game by like six points.
Who is the most underrated player on the HeatDevils?
The person I really like on our team is (point guard) Tsubasa (Yonamine). I really like Tsubasa’s game. I like what he brings to the table.
I understand that he’s real young (age 23) or whatever but I really like his game . . . I like the way he plays, plain and simple.
He has a lot of upside. I think he can benefit in this league. (He has) quickness, he can shoot.
Who is the most exciting player in the bj-league?
Right now, I think it would have to be my teammate Andy Ellis. He’s been there (through) thick and thin for our team down the stretches, throughout the games.
What are your hobbies?
I’m on the Internet, man. And at 12 o’clock at night I’m watching ESPN every day . . . I love watching basketball.
What question about the bj-league are you most often asked by family and friends from the U.S.?
It’s questions like, “How is the basketball league over here. How is the competition?”
I tell them it’s good. I kind of compare it to the Big 12 (Conference) because most of the people that I know watch the Big 12 and watched me play throughout my career there at Tech . . . And so far it’s been brutal just like the Big 12.