Interview: Gareth Murray – Glasgow Rocks

Murray: Season not as doom and gloom as people suggest

Last Sunday, London City Royals were in town to take on The Glasgow Rocks in the second leg of the BBL Trophy Semi-Final. With a 20 point deficit after the away trip to Crystal Palace, things were not looking great. Rubbing some more salt in the wound, Rocks forward and leader, Gareth Murray, was out through injury, due to a horrific broken nose.

The Church of Hoops sat down before the game with Murray to catch his thoughts on the season so far, GB and more.

“I feel we had a slow start to the season, I mean everyone is aware it hampered us. People lost a lot of confidence at the very beginning and it set us up for how the season was going to go. Like I say, we had a slow start, lost a couple of games, some guys that were new were trying to find each other and understand how people play. We played a good London [Lions] who have been dominating the league so far this year.

The Trophy is what we are onto right now, it’s a good couple of games when we played [London City] Royals on Tuesday.

We didn’t come out properly and it’s the first 3 minutes that kind of set the tone for the game, gave them confidence and we kind of looked shocked and not prepared to play at that level.

After those 3 minutes were over, they had too much momentum for us to try and bring it back.

Then I got hurt in the third quarter and it [the lead] went out to 30 but the guys managed to bring it back to around 20, maybe even 16 and they got a couple of baskets at the end.

But overall, I wouldn’t say its [the season] successful, but its not been as doom and gloom as some people make out to be. We’ve played something like 18, 19 games this season so we’ve still got like 16 or something to go in the league so its definitely not finished, there is still a chance on being a top 5 team which is still achievable in my eyes.

The trophy has got away from us a bit today, but its not impossible, if we can turn around 21 points and get to the Final it would be unbelievable to play the Trophy Final in Glasgow, truly unbelievable. 2013 it was in Glasgow and it was a great atmosphere, with the home fans here to watch, unfortunately we came up short in that game.”

 

Last summer, as everyone knows, Scotland finished 4that the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, being led by a Rocks quintet of Gareth Murray, Kieron Achara, Jonny Bunyan and Bantu Burroughs and one of the BBL’s most dominant big men, Ali Fraser. Murray personally played heroic basketball to claim the final position and shock the world as we topped the group, beat England and reached the Medal rounds.

“Obviously playing for Scotland and doing so well in the commonwealth games is one of the highlights of my career. Missing out on a medal…we thought it was an opportunity, it was something as a team we were hoping to get.

Getting someone in the bronze medal match that we could beat, New Zealand weren’t that. They were meant to be in the Gold Medal Match with Australia, and we were meant to have Canada, a team we felt we could beat, but obviously the way it turned out, it was a great achievement to get that far.

We were just so disappointed we never managed to get the Bronze Medal.”

 

Coming back from Australia, it was back to business for Murray and the Rocks. With the season starting under a new coach, new players, they had a tough task to repeat some of the success from the previous season.

“But, coming back, I now have the [Glasgow Rocks] Academy, so it was a long summer trying to recruit like 20 odd students into the Academy.

Then coming back to the start of the Rocks season, almost a whole new team, new Americans, new European players, an adjustment you have to make every year, a new coach is in play, a new style, everything.

Everything kind of is in place but you’re looking to get involved but it’s difficult getting so many different styles to match up and play how the coach wants.”

 

Prior to his injury, Murray was named in the Great Britain squad to take part in the international break as two pre-qualifiers rolled around for EuroBasket, a home tie in Manchester v Cyprus, it was then a flight to Austria. 2 wins were needed but ideally a 14 point win over Austria would have secured the group for GB.

“I’ve been a part of GB since June 2013, its always something you’re looking to be a part of for the big tournaments, you know, EuroBasket, the qualifiers, then we had the World Cup in the Summer, needing two wins in Glasgow, we came up short, losing to Israel, which would’ve got us to the next round. So, there is the highs and lows of that and now you’re playing in the pre-qualifiers for EuroBasket so you’re basically at the bottom again, trying to work your way up.

As a goal – I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a goal, if you play well you get selected. I’ve been in the squad for 5 or 6 years now, so I’ve been fairly consistent when I’ve played for GB so I think I’ll be there until somebody comes and takes my spot.”

 

The GB squad was announced, which for the first time in a while, boasted players currently playing in Europe instead of a totally majority-BBL squad. Murray acknowledged it’s a great step to be taking.

“The guys want to play at the highest level they can and most of these guys are playing at the highest level. Whether its 20 minutes for a club or 8-12 minutes, wherever, they’re all playing at a high level, so they are all getting quality basketball with good coaching.

So to bring them back and get them all together, I think it is going to be great.

Now, if they could make the league strong enough and have everyone here, obviously it would be better if everyone was playing together in Britain, they would know each other and have regular camps and young kids can see what can be achieved, they can aspire to play in the UK and say, okay I can be here and play at the highest level and still be successful.

Whereas, right now, you’re playing in the BBL, which people look down on it, people all around the World, people don’t respect the BBL – and I can see why, I’ve been a part of the BBL for some time, I’ve watched games, it’s not the same style as European Basketball, it’s a lot more fast paced, more one on one, not a lot of team defence, so you can understand.

So, I think guys should always be going away and playing at the highest level they can and come back and play for the national team.

 

Looking towards the future generations, Murray chimed in on his thoughts on the young talent and his own career.

“Yeah, there’s some great young British talent playing in the states, playing in top clubs in Europe, the next generation is strong.

They will be the next group of guys playing for GB which is great, you always want guys coming through, there’s so much talent being produced in Britain but moving on to play at the highest level, which is great, if they can go sign professional contracts in Europe that’s great.

The guys who play in GB now have all been to College in America, there’s maybe like a handful that haven’t, but they’ve been at top European clubs and come through that system. But yeah, these guys are the next generation of players. I’m excited.

Glasgow is definitely where I see myself finishing things, I’ve got the Academy, coaching Glasgow University, St Aloysius’, I’ve got commitments outside the Rocks, but definitely yeah, I don’t really see myself going anywhere else. If they decide not to return me as a player, hopefully I can do something else within the club to continue my job, or my role, within the Glasgow Rocks.”

 

Rocks went on to lose the second leg by an aggregate score of 28, meaning it will be an all London Trophy Final.