The off season is a time of excitement. 3 months of rumour, speculation and blind optimism!
Actually, it’s rubbish. We can’t be bothered finding another hobby and there’s only so many player announcements the Rocks can string out.
To ease our pain (and yours too!), we caught up with “Big G” to discuss the important topics in life, such as…. facial hair!
He’s the Rocks 2nd longest serving player with 8 seasons under his belt over 3 different spells (Well, technically it’s only 2 until September). He’s played more league games (257) than any other Rocks apart from Sterling Davis (287). Keith Bunyan is 3rd with 190 btw…
Over his Rocks career* he has averaged 9.87PPG, 4.21RPG, 2.58FPG, 1.93APG, 0.31BPG and 0.88SPG. He has scored 2537 points on 0.485 FG, 0.330 3PT and 0.778 FT %
He has represented Scotland at the Commonwealth games in 2006 and at the Euro Championships for small countries in 2008 and 2012. He has also represented team GB at Eurobasket 2013 in Slovenia, and during the Eurobasket 2015 qualifiers. He’s currently in the squad for the Eurobasket 2017 qualifiers.
Where were you actually born? We’ve read Plymouth, Preston and Arbroath – enlighten us!
I’ve read similar things also, I was actually born in Plymouth and moved to Arbroath when I was around 4 years old. My dad was in the marines based in Plymouth and then Arbroath. I grew up in Arbroath until I went to the states at 17.
My experience of military families is that the children often follow the parents into service. How did you end up getting into basketball and going to the states instead?
I started playing basketball in my 1st year of high school when one of my good friends took me along to the after school club. After that we joined a club called Arbroath Musketeers (now Tayside Musketeers). When I finished high school in Arbroath I was an exchange student with FLAG (foreign links around the globe). I attended Pennfield High School in Battle Creek, Michigan.
What made you decide to grow the beard. Did you not prefer the smooth, fresh faced look of your earlier days…
I always wanted a beard growing up, so when I could grow a full beard and not some of the attempts I see these days I let it grow!
You played in France’s NM1 for the 15-16 and part of the 14-15 season. Zaire Taylor has mentioned that it was more competitive than he’d expected. Is this an opinion you’d echo? How did it compare with the BBL in terms of both on court and off-court standards?
I really enjoyed playing in France. It was typical European basketball, strong defence and the ball is always moving – rarely is there much 1v1 or one shot pass. It’s a very competitive league where any team could win each night. The BBL is a cross between American style of basketball and the European game. Some players that are successful in Europe are not always successful in the BBL and vice versa. It’s a very strange league. I played against a few players last year in NM1 who are great players in that league but their game doesn’t work well in the BBL and were cut from BBL teams – both American and French players.
It’s a very professional league, practice twice a day with 2/3 video sessions a week, traveling the day before games. Each player had their own apartment so if family wanted to travel with you, you had your own space (some BBL teams have 3/4/5 players living in one house). You have 10/12 professional players on the team that all play and are being developed. In NM1 you are allowed 3 imports, 2 US and 1 EU player, the rest are French.
The 13/14 season provided more talking points than anyone expected. The two main ones:
For many of us, it was our first opportunity to see the Rocks lift some silverware. Did you fancy your chances going into the Wolves game, or did the level of expectation weigh heavily on the squad?
It was in my opinion our best chance, the team we had on paper looked good but didn’t perform as expected! The league was a challenge for us as we had no consistency. I said to myself that I would do everything I could in the trophy to get us to the final and said to the team this is our best chance to redeem a terrible season we were having. We came so close but in the end we couldn’t finish the game….story of the season.
The failure to make the playoffs seemed to overshadow everything else that happened during the season. Some would say the team’s performance over the course of that season, in some respects, unfairly and disproportionately defined your Rocks career. It’s no secret that you found the whole experience frustrating, something which occasionally manifested itself on court. Looking back, how do you feel about your season?
The season was the worst ‘team’ I have played on. There was undoubtedly some talented individual players but as far as the group of players we weren’t a team. The fans only see the team play once a week or maybe twice a month, they don’t know what goes on in practice every day…. only their opinion of what they see in a 40min game. A new fan, or someone who has only been around for a couple of seasons, won’t know what type of player or person (if you have ever spoke with me) I am. I have put a lot of hard work over the years during the season and summer to get to where I am now. At the time I started with the rocks I was a 20 year old with a relatively low profile. Many people probably saw me as frustrated player and maybe negative. I’ll admit that I probably was that way towards the end of the season, the inconsistency and frustration of everything. Sterling tried to implement various different tactics and scenarios to help us improve and progress but was too hard for some players and they didn’t understand.
I don’t care if you miss layups or miss shots, only that you play hard and you make good decisions. Practice is where you can improve your skills and put in that extra work to improve your ball handling, shooting etc, some players weren’t interested in putting in that extra work!
When you have been at the same club for many years it becomes part of you and you want the club, as well as yourself, to succeed. Sometimes players come in and only think about themselves, and not what is best for the team. They arrive for one season and leave never to be seen again. It says a lot about who they are and what they are about. They could look good by scoring a lot of points, or have flashy dunks, but don’t care if they win or lose. They might be fan favourites that season but is that what you want? Or would you rather have smart, tough guys that lay everything on the line for their team to play well together and who want to win??
I’m not letting that season define who I am or what I’m about. Honestly, I’ve tried to learn from it and forget about it. I can’t change what happened that season only learn from it. I’m looking ahead to what this next season will bring and how I can make an impact.
I like stats, so I had a look through your past 5 years’ worth. You tend to sit around 10-15 PPG, 4-6 RPG, 2-3 APG, 1 SPG and 0.5 BPG. They’re not spectacular but they’re very consistent, year in year out.
I’ll be honest about my game, I’m not an outright scorer, I don’t do one thing great. I’m a good shooter but not a great shooter. I can handle the ball but not a great ball handler. I play good defence but I’m not a great defender. I can do a little bit of everything…’a jack of all trades master of none’. I’m a basketball player. Throughout my career I’ve played every position on the court at some point in time.
There is a perception of you as a player who fouls a lot. Would you agree with that?
I’m sure there was times that I was frustrated and said to myself I’m about to hammer the next guy that comes my direction… But at the same time I try to use my fouls wisely.
You have 5 fouls to use, so you may as well use them. If you’re playing hard and trying to play defence there will be fouls called. If you’re not getting fouls called are you playing real defence?? There’s many ways fouls are used for example stopping a fast break, stopping an easy layup, towards end of a quarter when the team has fouls to give to put the ball on the sideline, to get the ball out a better scorers hands. I’ve never been asked that before, I think if you understand the game of basketball it’s a pretty straight forward thing.
Do you feel like you have unfinished business in Scotland?
I feel like Glasgow needs to win a trophy it’s been too long with nothing, I believe if we have the best Scottish players playing together with the added talent that the BBL allows (3 Americans) we have a great opportunity to be a successful team and win some kind of trophy. As for my own personal goals I feel I have to prove that I am a top British player and have to dominate games regularly not occasionally.
Did you consider staying in France?
As far as staying in France, the team I played for made me an offer to return this season. I thought it was best for myself and family to come home (I don’t want to miss my daughter growing up). We also might have the opportunity in 2018 to represent Scotland at the Commonwealth games, so being home and playing alongside Kieron and possibly some other Scottish guys, and helping the younger generation of Scottish players, were big incentives for me.
Do you think Kieron has his work cut out keeping you and JB in line this season?
I think playing regularly and for many years together is a huge advantage, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We know each other’s mentality. If one of us isn’t doing their job, role, etc we have enough respect for each other to get our point across without it being personal. We know what we expect from each other and we hold each other accountable.
How has getting married and having a family changed you – if at all?
I’m not sure it has changed me greatly. I love being home with my wife and daughter. Obviously you have to think about your family before yourself now. I’ve had various different opportunities that I probably would have done before I had a family but I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Where do you see Gareth Murray in 5-10 years’ time?
The struggle I have right now is I don’t actually know what I want to do when I retire. Coaching and player development is something I am really interested in. I would also love to train as a chef, but the long hours in a hot kitchen doesn’t really suit me. I would also like to open my own restaurant and sports bar.
*League games at Rocks only