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. Point guard Nile Murry of the Toyama Grouses is the subject of this week’s profile.

Hometown: Houston
Age: 24
Height: 193 cm
Weight: 93 kg

News photoNile Murry

Q: How’s the season going for you personally?

Murry: I would say that I’ve been playing pretty well. I feel that I can always do a lot better.

What in particular would you like to improve about your overall game? (Murry is averaging 19.4 points per game, which includes 12 games with 20 or more points, and is third in the league with a 3.8 assist-per-game average. He’s a dependable 3-point shooter with 51 treys to his credit and is an 80.8 percent free-throw shooter.)

Knock down a couple more threes than I’ve made and get to the free-throw line more. I go to the basket but (I want to) try to draw fouls each time I go to the basket.

What can the team do to make the climb out of last place? (Entering this weekend’s games, the Grouses were 8-16 and tied for last place with the Saitama Broncos.)

I think mostly to get on a winning streak we have to prepare more mentally than anything physically. Moving the ball more and getting the ball to guys into positions where they don’t have to do much — catch and shoot or get something going to the basket — definitely (better) ball movement.

Mentally we have to get stronger there, know what our goal is and play every game to obtain that goal, which is to get to the playoffs

Anything can happen. We are still staying very opportunistic.

For people who don’t know Grouses coach Masato Fukushima, what are some characteristics that describe his day-in and day-out personality?

A: I would definitely say he’s a player’s coach. He’s a guy that I think all players want to play for.

He’s very motivated. He wants the best out of his players and he also gives you the freedom to do what your talent leads you to do. He’s easy to talk to and he’s willing to listen to you at the same time, which is a luxury. . . . Some coaches feel that they know everything. We can always go back and talk to him. He listens and tries to incorporate that into the team-style game.

What’s the most interesting thing the Toyama fans have done to show their support for the team?

I guess just the cheers. They are a lot different (than cheers in the United States). They have certain cheers that they do at certain times of the game. . . . To hear the entire gym in unison is pretty funny. It let’s you know that you are doing a pretty good job.

Fans dress up and do the things that fans do worldwide. It’s pretty fun to hear your name chanted in a whole different language.

Who is the most underrated player on your team?

I would say Yone (backup guard Satoshi Yonemoto). When he does play, when he gets in the game, he hits some really big shots for us.

When he gets to do his thing, he’s always coming through and always taking advantage of the situation.

A lot of teams probably don’t know he can shoot the ball, but we see him do it all the time in practice . . . He can shoot it from anywhere. If you give him some daylight, he can knock it down.

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

I would say that when I got the call up to play (for Toyama). Just to be able to play professional basketball . . . not everybody can do this. That was something that I will always remember, that I got a chance to further my career.

(Murry arrived in Japan in late September for Toyama’s first exhibition game against Saitama.)

What was your job situation like before you got the call?

I was working for a marketing firm down in Fort Worth (Texas). I was still working out at the same time, eating dinner and I got the call and I was talking to my wife and I was sitting here waiting (and saying), ‘When am I going to get a call?’

I was just ready to get a call, but I didn’t know when. I had to get ready. It happened so fast. I was just waiting for my agent to let me know something definite. . . . It was gratifying.

Which coaches have influenced you the most in your basketball career?

(Murry spent two seasons at Temple University in Philadelphia before transferring to Texas Christian University and finishing up his college career two seasons ago.)

I would say (Temple’s) John Chaney and (TCU’s) Neil Dougherty. They both definitely challenged me as player.

John Chaney, I feel, he helped me mentally and the way he was able to break me down and build me back up.

Neil Dougherty, for him to teach me how to play at the type of intensity he had when he played, it definitely rubbed off on me.

Who’s your favorite NBA player?

Growing up my favorite player was Jason Kidd.

I like Ray Allen, Mike Bibby and Kobe Bryant. I’m a guard, man, so I always watch the guards, but my favorite big men are Tim Duncan and Shaq (Shaquille O’Neal) — finesse and power. . . And Kevin Garnett, I think, he’s a great player.

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