In Korea, life’s good for LG and Chris Massie

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There was a special play that took place during the 3rd Quarter of the LG Sakers vs. Mobis Phoebus game. It came from LG’s PF Chris Massie.

With just over five minutes to play in the 3rd quarter, Mobis was looking to post up their big man Ricardo Ratliffe who was being defended by Massie. Ratliff received a pass with great position in the paint, turned over his left shoulder for a baby hook but was absolutely denied by Massie.

Instead of spiking the ball 13 rows into the stands, Massie corralled the rebound, found his point guard and ran the floor. What the 6’9, 255 lbs Massie did next defies his reputation as a veteran professional basketball player.

Massie received the pass on the right block. Everyone in the gym thought he has going to take Ratliffe one-on-one. Instead, Massie calls for a teammate to cut to the basket. He passes the ball to his teammate only to get it back for an easy two.

“Everybody is learning. The biggest thing is for everyone to communicate on the floor, for example: cut, help, rebound etc,” says Massie.

Massie has a long resume of international basketball. Prior to signing with the LG Sakers this year, Massie played pro ball in Puerto Rico, Venezuala, France, Greece, Israel, Spain and Italy.

The basketball veteran is not your regular 37 year old player.

Massie didn’t start playing organized basketball until the age of 23.

“I never really played in high school. Just pick up games or shooting on the net we had at home. My sister was a really good player. She would beat all of the guys. She eventually went on to play at San Diego State,” says Massie.

When a 6’4 high school student is walking down the halls, he doesn’t go unnoticed. The player’s on Massie’s high school team wanted him to play but it was there was a misunderstanding from the head coach.

“The guys on the team wanted me to play but unfortunately the coach didn’t like the students who came from the neighborhood I lived in. I never got the chance to play.”

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“After high school I worked for an electrical company and never really played basketball,” says Massie.

One day, Massie received a phone call from a friend; that phone call would change his life forever.

“My friend called me up one day and asked if I wanted to play in this ‘Midnight basketball tournament’ in Houston, Texas. I went in there, played two games and after that every coach in the gym was trying to contact me.”

He went on to play for Oxnard College where his 20.6 points per game, and 14.4 rebounds per game and 63.6% shooting were some of the top stats in the Western State Conference.

Massie was recruited by hall-of-fame coach John Calipari at the University of Memphis. He would play four years in the NCAA.

Chris Massie, #4, Memphis Tigers.

Chris Massie, #4, Memphis Tigers.

“I still talk to all of my old coaches. They are great. I have a good relationship with Coach Cal and Coach Barbee at Auburn,” says Massie.

After four strong years at the University of Memphis, Massie took his talents to Europe where he would establish a good presence in the Italian and French leagues allowing his stock to rise for various clubs looking for a strong big man.

Now in Korea, Massie is forced to adapt to the different style of play that the Korean Basketball League (KBL) offers.

“Asia is not as physical as Europe. Europe embraces physicality while Korea doesn’t. They call everything here,”

Massie recalls arriving to Korea and attending the annual ‘foreign players’ meeting with KBL officials.

“All of the foreigners sat down with KBL officials to go over the rules and so on. They were like ‘you can’t do this and you can’t do that’. When we brought up the Korean players and their flopping, they had nothing to say about that. The flopping here is bad.”

Massie signed with the LG Sakers this season on a one-year $175,000 USD. He’s helped turned a team that finished in 8th place last season with only 18 wins to a team who halfway through the regular season has 17 wins and is tied for second place in the 10-team league.

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“It’s all about winning. I’m in Korea to win a championship!” I want to win it for the team, the fans and most importantly for my daughter. I want to show my daughter that hard work pays off.”

In 25 games and 22 minutes per game (foreigners can only play a total of two quarters per game), Massie is averaging 11 points and nine rebounds per game on 66 per cent shooting.

Albeit the tough travel schedule, Massie says the Changwon fans are the ones who make all of that easy.

“We live in Seoul so when we have home games in Changwon it’s in fact a road game because we have to travel the length of the country to get there. But when we do get there, the fans are great! The gym is packed every game. The Korean fans are so passionate. They are always supporting us and that’s great.”

At 37 years old, Massie has no plans to call it quits.

His Korean teamates call him ‘grand-daddy’ as some of them hold a 15-year age gap to Massie.

He keeps his body in shape with conditioning and weight lifting.

“I’m 37 years old but I play like I’m 25. I know my body. I know when to push it and when to rest up. I do a lot of running and weight training,” says Massie.

“I don’t allow my body to shut down. I take no time off. Once the KBL season finishes I will go straight to Puerto Rico to play pro ball there.”

Next up for Massie and the Sakers take on the KT SonicBoom from Busan. They are to face-off on christmas day, December 25th in Changwon.

Nick Bedard (@bedardnick) is the editor-in-chief of Basketballbuddha.com.

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