The Japan Times will be featuring periodic interviews with players in the bj-league — Japan’s first professional basketball circuit — which is in its second season. Marcus Toney-El of the Saitama Broncos is the subject of this week’s profile.

News photoMarcus Toney-El

Position: Forward;
Age: 24
Ht: 198 cm;
Wt: 95 kg
Hometown: E. Orange, N.J.

Q: How is the season going for you and the Broncos despite the win-loss record?

Toney-El: We’ve been working hard in practice and coming together. It’s taken us a bit longer than most teams to really focus and come together, but I like what the team has been doing the last month.

What’s your mental approach to basketball?

A lot of people just see how many points you score, but there’s a lot that goes on in basketball. It’s about loose balls and making hustle plays and just getting after it: giving an effort.

Our team has gotten a lot better at that in the last month, so the second half of the season should be really good to us.

What’s been your biggest thrill as a basketball player?

In high school, winning four straight state titles was a thrill.

(He attended powerhouse Seton Hall Prep in New Jersey and then played college ball for Seton Hall University. Toney-El’s heralded freshman class also included Eddie Griffin and Andre Barrett.)

In college, we beat Arizona in the NCAA Tournament.

How would you characterize your college experience as a ballplayer?

It was completely different role for me. In high school, I was a scorer. Then I was asked to be a role player. I struggled. I lost my confidence.

After college I played pro ball in the Dominican Republic and then I came here last season. Now I’ve started to get that confidence back.

In your own words, describe your style of play on the basketball court?

Man, that’s a tough one. (He pauses to think). I would say I have a certain swagger and I play the game to have fun. It’s got to be fun.

Every time I play I want some kid who’s watching me to say, “I want to play like Marcus.”

Do you have fond memories of your coaching mentors over the years?

I’ve had great coaches all of my life. Bob Farrell (in high school) and Tommy Amaker and Louis Orr (in college).

Brevin Knight (a New Jersey native who plays for the Charlotte Bobcats), he has helped mold me. I’ve got nothing but love for him.

How did you spend your offseason?

Back in Jersey, I worked out every day with buddies. Also, I played ball on three summer league teams, including the Jersey Shore League.

Who is your favorite player in the NBA?

Tracy McGrady (of the Houston Rockets) because he plays the same position.

What areas of your game would you most like to improve this season?

Free-throw shooting and 3-point shooting.

Who is the most underrated player on your team?

Andrew Feeley. He’s 6-9 (206 cm)and uses his right hand or left hand for jump shots.

How has Gordon James, who leads the league in rebounds at 15.0 per game, performed this season for your team?

He’s so strong in the paint, man. And he’s a great dunker and rebounder. He’s no longer a secret around this league.

I’ll go to battle any day with “G”.

(Toney-El also likes to dish out nicknames. He calls teammate Taishiro Shimizu “Little T” He’s known as “Big T.” Fellow forward Kazuki Hara is simply known as “Wara.” Sharpshooter Kazuhiro Shoji is “Thirty-two,” the same as his age. And he calls Ryuzo Anzai “Banzai.”)

What’s one big thing that’s different in your life here in Japan than in the United States?

The trains; here you’re always taking the trains. Back home, I haven’t taken trains since I was a young boy.

What do you like to do in Japan when you are not playing basketball?

(Toney-El first reveals he’s an avid video-game player, especially PlayStation, and that he’s in regular contact with family and friends from the States.)

I like to keep to myself (sometimes), but I like to hang out with a few Japanese friends. I miss the food back home, so it’s nice to go to TGI Friday’s or Outback Steakhouse.

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