It was just a season ago that the ABL unofficially switched to a faster paced league, thanks in large part to a championship-winning Hong Kong Eastern team that took the league by storm. Nowadays, it seems that just about every team has found themselves trying duplicate the defending champions’ winning formula in looking for a prized quick and tough point guard to match up against reigning world import MVP Marcus Elliot.
With the premium that clubs seem to be placing on like-molded guards, the search for another athletic game-changing floor general seems likely to be in the mix for the near future. So are there some guards who are already playing in the region that are good enough to compete in the ABL, but have not yet been given the opportunity to arise? If so, would these guys make games more compelling and fun to watch?
The reason why I pose such questions is because I, myself, have seen a guard, who in my mind, is capable of positively silencing those questions while in Surabaya, in attendance at an Indonesian Basketball League (IBL) game. The matchup was between Satria Muda Pertamina Jakarta facing off against Garuda Bandung, where a flashy, long guard caught my attention just moments into the very first few possession.
Gary Jacobs Jr., a combo guard standing at 6’2” who was seemingly driving to the basket at will.
In case you haven’t heard, Satria Muda is a powerhouse within Indonesia’s professional basketball scene. A team which also used to be dominant in the early ABL days. The IBL game I was witnessing was a tough matchup for Jacobs because his size could still be considered miniscule when having to guard opposing imports like Dior Lowhorn, or Jamarr Johnson, an Indonesian naturalized player.
However, Jacobs didn’t cower, nor did he back up one bit, but instead, he played the game with his heart, using those aforementioned words of size as a chip on his shoulder to compete like a beast. For comparison-sake, Jacobs is reminiscent of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook, as both compete with a fearless, blood-thirsty mentality every game.
“I’m still watching Russell’s films now. Trying to model his mindset and be competitive and fearless like him,” says Jacobs.
Although his team ultimately fell short that night, he would finish the game strong, ending with 34 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists. His display of passion and the excitement he brought to the game got me wondering. How could this guy not be in the ABL?
The opportunity was ripe. I had to talk to him to learn more about the killer-instinct behind the apex predator I had just watched.
“I’M NOT HERE TO PROVE OTHERS WRONG, BUT [RATHER] TO PROVE MYSELF RIGHT.”
During the conversation, Jacobs gave me some interesting background about him as a player. Apparently, he is a close friend of the Saigon Heat’s heritage import Moses Morgan, dating back to their hometown all the way back in the United States. Jacobs was quick to stress the amount of love the two have for each other, stemming from a young age up to now. The two work out in while in the presence of each others’ company during the summer, proving that having a buddy who shares the same adoration of basketball, playing year-round can certainly strengthen the bonds of brotherhood.
Aside from Morgan, the American combo-guard has another whom he can better his game, and relate to, literally. Jacobs has a slightly talented brother—Julian Jacobs Jr.—who is currently playing in the NBA G-League. The sibling actually grew up playing a variety of sports together, but eventually fell in love with basketball at a young age. Despite playing in different time zones and levels of basketball now, they still share a lot of fun and interesting stories between oceans. It’s just another luxury that the game of basketball brings in terms of reinforcing a brotherhood, and in this case, a blood-related one.
In fact, Gary Jacobs Jr. has only been playing as a professional in Southeast Asia for about two years, but has already etched his name in the IBL. He admits that he enjoys the basketball culture in the Indonesia, and their passionate and friendly fans have made his transition much easier than what it could have been. To better illustrate his thoughts, it’s definitely not out of the ordinary for athletic and flashy guards like himself to adopt Indonesia culture seamlessly, but he was also quick to remind me that nothing came easy.
During his debut season in the Indonesian domestic league, he averaged 27.9 points (tops in the league), 8.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists (third), and 1.7 steals per game, en-route to being named the league’s Foreign Player of the Year as well as appearing on the All-Star team.
If you’re looking for single-game type dominance, Jacobs also set an IBL scoring record when he dropped a jaw-dropping 61 points in front of a frantic Indonesian crowd. Since that day, it’s no surprise that his popularity in the country sky-rocketed, with fans queuing up in hopes of taking a selfie with dreadlocked guard.
I know what you’re probably thinking, so I’ll just go ahead and address it right here. The competition level between the IBL and ABL is not comparable right? Let me invite you to take a second and think about that. Surely, if you’re an ABL advocate, then Marcus Marshall’s 60 point ABL debut earlier in the season rings a bell right? You do remember how breathtaking that was to watch.
Now that you know that Gary Jacobs Jr. has a 61-point performance in a pro game within our region, wouldn’t it be exciting to see what he could bring to what is an already competitive league, and should only become more competitive as the years go on?
Jacobs is well aware of the ABL through stories from good-friend Moses Morgan, and a shot in the regional league is something he has inscribed on his bucket list, patiently awaiting the day for it to be crossed off.
Don’t take this the wrong way though, he without a doubt, loves and appreciates how much the IBL has sharpened him in terms of mentality and skills, forcing him to be pushed to his limits every single day. He even admits that he wouldn’t be where he is now, if it weren’t for the IBL and its taxing demands which have improved his game.
“GARY IS A GUY THAT HAS PUT IN A LOT OF HOURS IN THE WEIGHT ROOM AND ALSO ON THE FLOOR. THE SKY IS THE LIMIT WITH HIS POTENTIAL.”
It’s just that he has an unrelenting will to improve even further, believing the more competitive ABL to guide him towards that path.
“I feel like the ABL can bring the best out of me, to compete against some of the best guards in the region.”
That’s just simply the mindset of a champion. To never settle for the present, striving for new challenges while enjoying and embracing the moments that come along with them.
“I’m not here to prove others wrong, but [rather] to prove myself right.”
Instead of catching up on z’s during his free time, Jacobs checks out ABL games regularly, so he is quite familiar with what is happening in the league this season. Like a lot of us, he is also a fan of Hong Kong Eastern, the Saigon Heat, and Westports Malaysia Dragons’ small-ball strategy, where those teams are filled with multiple shooters and energy guys who can run the floor tirelessly.
PHOTO CREDIT: IBL INDONESIA
He also mentions just how competitive the ABL is, epitomizing the notion through the Saigon Heat’s slaying of the league’s giants one week, and then being beaten by the Malaysia Dragons just a few days later, showing the same kind of excitement that any ABL fanboy or fangirl could relate to.
For most of the current ABL players that I’ve had the honor to interview, most of them see Marcus Elliot as the league’s golden standard. He’s the guy that everyone wants to play and compete against. Jacobs is no different, sharing the same sentiment, and recognizing how much the defending champion player has changed the league with hopes of promptly challenging Elliot’s throne.
Additionally, players such as Bobby Ray Parks Jr., Akeem Scott, and Tyler Lamb are also the type of competitors that he has much respect for, further driving his itch in tasting ABL competition.
In adding more thrill to my interview with him, I asked Gary to pick two heritage imports and one world import that he would wish to play alongside and win a championship with, similar to this year’s NBA All-Star team draft format. Below are his choices with some short reasoning and justification behind his picks.
Moses Morgan: Imagine how much it would mean to us, coming from the same hometown and being able to play professional basketball side-by-side. Moses has evolved his game so much under his new coach, and he is always a fighter who I can count on.
Tyler Lamb: I used to watch him play college basketball, putting up show after show at the time, and now he is still the same killer I look up to. My combo with him would be interesting.
Christien Charles: A veteran who knows how to win games, and is still dominating at the defensive side with his supreme experience around the world. He would be a mentor on guiding the team to success.
Straying away from just pure skill as the sole determining factor behind who does and doesn’t excel in the regional league, a player’s demeanor and morale can also be considered valuable assets towards success. Jacobs didn’t shy away from expressing his willingness and eagerness to lead a team, doing things by example and showing teammates, current or potential, that hard work does and will eventually pay off. He states that his leadership and competitive nature would be the two main values that he can bring to his team.
From an overall league standpoint, Gary Jacobs Jr. believes that his type of game will definitely attract more fans to watch the games, and it could be a good marketing tool for both a potential suitor and the ABL. Though the answer could come off rather cheeky for some, it’s just the mentality and self-belief we should all hope to see from any young player.
Players who are hungry for an opportunity to shine in the ABL.
His former head coach at Central Washington University seems to agree.
“Gary is a guy that has put in a lot of hours in the weight room and also on the floor. The sky is the limit with his potential,” praises former college mentor Greg Sparling.
While Gary Jacobs Jr. continues his journey in the IBL, hoping to win the league’s championship with his current team, Garuda Bandung, the chances of us seeing him play in ABL 8 are slim. It’s nothing to fret about though, as there’s always next season for ABL fans to see another iteration of the “Flash” excel in the rapidly growing league.
Who knows? He could very well become your favorite player in the league someday.
Fun Fact: Gary and Moses are also business partners on their own apparel brand.