Monday, January 5, 2009

Shooting The Breeze With Asa

Old school interview, old school photo. (Photo courtsey of Geordie, not McLeod)

Asa Schuster caught up with me recently after a tough lose to the Sydney Spirit. This was the end product of our 40 minutes of jibbering. It was made possible, all thanks to the NBL.

Question: We'll start with some important business. About 10 years ago in Wollongong two young idiots approached you after a game and were very concerned about what John Stockton was getting away with in the NBA Finals. Mostly the push-offs, they appealed to you as his Gonzaga alum that if you ever had a chance to talk to him could you instruct him on what a push-off is. Did you ever get around to doing that?

John Rillie: I did. I actually remember that very clearly because Stockton was the master of that. I passed on the message, but as I passed on the message I got him to teach me that move.

Q: Did he go to your practices when you were at Gonzaga?

JR: Yeah, he was born and raised in Spokane, Washington where Gonzaga is. Every off-season he's back there, he lives there right now. He's very much entrenched in the community and he was always there playing. He was a very approachable guy and he had an unbelievable work ethic. Just to watch him and then join in on some of those workouts was a priceless experience.

Q: Another Gonzaga guy Adam Morrison, how did he go as a ball boy?

JR: Yeah he was very good, let me tell you he did more passing as a ball boy than he does as a player.

Q: Did he have that seedy moustache back then?

JR: He was only 12, so I think it was just about to kick in, maybe some blonde fur was fastly approaching his top lip.

Q: Did you ever think he was going to become an elite player?

JR: Adam Morrison was very under-recruited in high school, I guess on Gonzaga's sake it was fortunate that he played his high school basketball there, playing in your backyard is always a good opportunity.

Q: In college when you went up against Steve Nash could you ever imagine you'd be still competing against him over the internet and challenging each other?

JR: When we were in college the internet really didn't exist so who would have thought. We had some good fun in college, Gonzaga and Santa Clara we always had a good rivalry on the court but we had a good comradeship off the court. They were two colleges that approached basketball very similarly it was always fun. I guess the question is; who would have ever thought Steve Nash would have went on to what he achieved? Everyone knew he was going to be a good player but to be a two-time MVP goes to show putting in the hard work can pay off.

Q: You've mentioned that the quality of trash talk in the NBL has lessoned over the years. Who are some of the best current trash talkers and who are some of the greats you played against?

JR: Absolutely no trash talkers these days. You know Shane Heal likes to get into it a little bit. I think over the course of time people realised if you fire those guys up in that type of forum it ends up in disaster. Coaches these days say don't get into it. Copes (Lanard Copeland) was always a good one, probably the most notable, and Al Green way back in the day, he was probably the one that made it fashionable out here in Australia. Look if you bump into Al today he'll still talk trash to you.

Q: A lot has been said about your stroke this season, what I want to know is how many keystrokes per minute are you actually typing at?

JR: I am s**t at that, dead-set worst typer. I could punch out a good blog in 10 minutes if I could type. It's like two knitting needles going at the keyboard.

Q: Just with the blogging, you've always been one of the more approachable players in the NBL and the blog seems to enhance that. How are you enjoying the whole blogging experience?

JR: You know, you get different questions and people have different opinions about it and I guess this year it's just gained momentum because it was actually up and going last year but I got off to a very slow and auspicious start. I think people are getting used to it now and I guess I've become better at it in my writing or the way I've gone about setting up the blog and now with the podcast. I'm just doing something that I love to do and it's fun and I learn a lot. I'm no way a computer nerd just yet but I've seen plenty of them tonight, it was like a blogging reunion here tonight. You can find it at

Q: And on your other stroke, how did you develop your fade-away jump shot?

JR: Ever since I was a kid, shooting was something that kind of came natural, if you can say that it does. I spent lots of time on it, when I was a kid I had no girlfriend, just me and the basketball and hoop we had a love affair going on.
I could always shoot, but when I went to college you ask any coach and they just knew I was a shooter, but when I go and play pick-up games wherever and whenever that's when I kind of started working on other aspects of my game because I never wanted to be just pigeon-holed as just a shooter.

Q: I haven't seen many people in Australia shoot the way you do.

JR: (I watched) Lots of NBA tapes growing up. I've watched all the good shooters, Reggie Miller is at the top of the list, but then I also loved Moses Malone for his rebounding so I consider myself maybe the all-time NBL rebounder for a guard. For posting up and the fade-away, probably somebody like Mark Aguire I just watched endless hours of NBA, there's a whole list of players I watched.

Q: You've been on some awesome NBL rosters like your rookie year you had Leroy Loggins, Heal and Mike Mitchell especially in Wollongong we know him as a character…

JR: Especially around the glass palings…

Q: Adelaide with Sapwell, Brooks, Cattalini…

JR: Mee, Maher, Brogan

Q: In Sydney, Farley…

JR: Mackinnon, Dwight, Bolden, Rucker…

Q: The team you're on now you've got the Love Doctor, Homicide, the Pharmacist and Hinder, how does this team rank with all the great characters you've played with?

JR: Nah, absolutely as far as characters the Adelaide teams were unbelievable. Once you walked into the locker room, unbelievable. I remember if you actually didn't get paid-out on you weren't part of the team. So if you're having a dull day you knew something was wrong. I can remember one day we hung up a picture of a monkey in the locker room, you know Sapwell we call him 'monkey boy' and he didn't notice this poster and the monkey was positioned in the thinking pose and unbeknown to Sapwell he's sitting in the thinking pose in his chair as well. We're just like 'Sappy, you're just a class act'.

Kevin Brooks was a character; Darnell, he's sneaky; Maher, thought he was a magician back in the day. That's a true story, he had the old handkerchief in the thumb trick and he virtually might as well have had a black thumb over his thumb, but Martin Cattalini was just bemused by it like, 'Mahersie, how do you do that?'

We had some good characters for sure, but Corey (Williams) is a character, he's a circus himself. No-one else needs to be around when it's Corey, he's a full-on circus.

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