BANGKOK (Thailand) – This doesn’t seem like Jason Brickman.
That’s probably what most fans at GSB Stadium 29 were thinking November 17, 2019, when the Mono Vampire played their season opener against Alab Pilipinas. Brickman had played three seasons in the ABL for the Vampire and the Kuala Lumpur Dragons. Now, he was making his debut for Alab Pilipinas.
And it didn’t look like it was going too well.
Starting from Zero
He finished the game scoreless for the first time in his ABL career. He took only one field goal attempt and recorded only four assists. Alab Pilipinas took a 35-point loss – their worst loss ever – and it just didn’t seem right.
Brickman was a champion, twice going to the Finals. He was a Heritage MVP and was primed as a contender for the Local MVP award this year.
Who the heck was this guy we were watching?
“The first few games we were all trying to get chemistry together,” Brickman says. “There were a lot of new guys on the team. We were all trying to figure out our roles. I think it was just an adjustment to the new team and also learning coach’s system.”
Brickman – and Alab – adjusted and rebounded from that season opening loss, going off for a 4-game win steak. He averaged 10.8 points and 11.3 assists per game during that stretch.
Alab Pilipinas were still far from being a perfect team and bounced between close wins and blowout losses every other game. But at least they were moving along forward in the right direction.
Alab had already won the ABL title two seasons ago. Brickman would remember well, being on the losing side with the Vampire that year. If the Philippines-based franchise wants to hoist the trophy once again this year, they will need the 28-year-old point guard to continue raising his level of play – especially in terms of scoring.
One of Brickman’s best qualities is his unselfishness, always looking to make the perfect pass. It’s why he’s second among the ABL’s all-time leaders in assists and why his scorers love to play with him. Over his years in the ABL, he’s set up guys like Reggie Johnson, Matthew Wright, and Mike Singletary among others. It’s been his job to make deadly offensive players nearly unstoppable.
That has not been the case with Alab Pilipinas this year. Adding Sam Deguara has been a nice boost, giving Brickman a target to lob to – one that scores with efficiency. Aside from Deguara, it’s been a bit rough.
Alab’s leading scorer, Nick King, is putting up nearly 20 points per game. However, he’s doing so by shooting only 42.8 percent from the field. Khaliff Wyatt was scoring at an efficient rate, but his contract ended in January. His replacement, Prince Williams, has not been an ideal offensive option, scoring only 11.2 points per contest on 37.0 percent shooting from the floor. Jeremiah Gray has his moments, but inconsistency is still an issue.
With the personnel this year, Alab Pilipinas needs Jason Brickman to be aggressive and look for his own shot more often. That’s what they got from Brickman in Alab’s fourth and final meeting against Mono Vampire in Thailand, a statement rematch for the former Vampire star.
The point guard erupted for 15 points in the fourth quarter and Alab were able to force overtime after being down by as many as 17 points. Brickman continued to pile on his former club in the extra period, knocking down a dagger three to finish with a career-high 32 points on 11-of-14 shooting and, most importantly, the win.
Coach Jimmy Alapag was more than pleased about his floor general’s performance after the game. It wasn’t just the gaudy scoring numbers, but more that Brickman was looking to score by himself. The Filipino legend has been a great influence on Brickman’s game and playing under Alapag will only make Brickman a better, more complete player.
“Playing for coach Jimmy has been great,” says Brickman of his current head coach. “He is a great leader and he really understands the players’ needs, having played not long ago. He continues to encourage me to shoot more and gives me the confidence to lead the team.”
Alapag has said that by becoming a bigger threat as a scorer, it would be much easier for Brickman to do what he loves most – setting up his teammates. It’s a concept that Brickman is buying into and hoping to build on right as Alab heads into the second half of the season.
“Now that I am getting more comfortable with the team and we are getting more chemistry, I want to try and be more aggressive as the season goes on,” Brickman says. “I’m going to continue to play my game, still looking to find my teammates. The goal is to play my best basketball by the time the playoffs come around.”
Home Sweet Home
Taking a step back from all the issues with Brickman going from a scoreless game to a career-high, the big picture for him and the team is to win the title. For Brickman, getting to play for Alab is already a big deal for him by itself. Helping them win another title will make this run even more special.
“I’m really happy to be playing for Alab and representing the Philippines’ team,” says Brickman. “It is a great organization that has had success in the league. I have always thought about playing for them since they entered the ABL.”
Featured Photo by Onvisa Thewphaingarm