It wasn’t very long ago when Jason Brickman was just dropping single digit scoring numbers, but dishing out double-digit dimes in benefit of his entire team as a whole in front of Malaysian fans. Since then, he’s swapped the red and white dragon-laden jerseys for ones decorated in orange and black, and imbued with a Thai flag.
“I’m glad we can come back here and play twice. I miss Malaysia a lot,” Jason added.
Similar to Chris Eversley, Brickman won a championship with Malaysian locals three years ago under the tutelage of head coach Ariel Vanguardia, and that sort of bond is one which forever bonds individuals in a life-long brotherhood to cherish. In fact, it was his outstanding performances during the final series that gave the Malaysia Dragons a slight edge in earning the last smile that season.
Fans still love him. Most of them, patiently awaiting their turn to snap a picture with him during this very interview.
“It’s always good for me to come back here and play against them. Obviously, we had a great season here last time, a season I will always remember, so getting to talk to them off the court is really a fun experience for me.”
After sharing how much he missed fans and friends here in Malaysia, he quickly swapped tones, firmly assessing his thoughts of the season so far with Mono Vampire.
“We played a lot better than what I thought we could this season, especially since we have a lot of good teams in this league,” the 26-year-old point guard states. The former TBSL championship winning team finished the season in fourth place with 14 wins and six losses and will face the Singapore Slingers in the first round of the 2017-2018 ABL playoffs.
“From the beginning of the season until now, I think we got a lot better. We just compete and have a lot of fun out there. I think we’ve had a great season so far, and our expectation is the championship. That’s our goal.”
“I HAVE REALLY GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH THE GUYS FROM MALAYSIA, ESPECIALLY YI HOU AND KUEK .”
With the addition of the 7’6” Samuel Deguara, the Vampire’s interior defense is almost is as good as it looks on paper, but the Fil-Am ASEAN import thinks otherwise when asked about the improvements they will have to make for the playoffs.
“Defense. I think the key is defense,” Brickman answers with no hesitation or second-guessing.
“Offensively, we have really good scoring players with the chemistry we have built along the way, and we are very happy about that.”
This season, the Thai-based team broke the league record for most sports scored in a single campaign, a mark that was previously set by the Malaysia Dragons two seasons previous.
As one of the golden rules of the basketball world suggests, offense wins games, but defense wins championships. Brickman is obviously a believer of the cliché saying, explaining, “In order to win the playoffs, we have to defend better, especially in the pick-and-roll, because if we can get stops against opposing teams, then we can run our usual transition offense, which I think is what we do best.”
Aside the usual contributions from the four imports, one of the players that have put out great efforts throughout the season is local big man Teerawat Chanthachon, not only having caught the attention of fans throughout the region, but by his own point guard.
“I think Big [Teerawat Chantachon] has been doing really well for us,” shares Brickman. “He is able to give Sam [Deguara] some break time, sets good screens, and finishes around the rim.”
Teerawat’s has made strides throughout the season, and the Thai-big seems to have a knack for scoring and rebounding at the right time. Though it may have seemed like both Brickman and Teerawat may have had discussions before the season began on how the former expects the latter to perform, it hasn’t necessarily been the case.
“He is a smart player. He knows when to do the right things like roll into the paint precisely. I don’t have to say anything to him. He already knows how to play well.”
Brickman is well-known for his pass-first mentality within the region, but his size and height could sometimes act as a disadvantage when faced up against bigger defenders in the league. The 6’0” Texas native gave a few names about who has guarded him well thus far.
“Ray Parks is a really good on-ball defender. He has good size and quick steps. [Mikh] McKinney is also a really quick defender who can steal the ball if you lose your focus.”
If any team wishes to disrupt the tempo of Mono Vampire, they will have to start first with the league’s assists leader. After all, Brickman is the piece that makes the league’s top offensive team as threatening as they are.
Ever since his first season with the Dragons in the ABL, it has been just about four years that Jason has been progressing his professional career in Southeast Asia. The first stop was in Malaysia, then a sting with Mighty Sports out of the Philippines, up to where he is now on Mono, a team he has spent nearly two years with.
A fan favorite everywhere he goes, the American-born Brickman hopes to one day return to where his roots lay. However, the PBA has imposed some new rules that may limit his chances of going back to the Philippines any time soon, though he remains positive about the possibilities.
“I’M ACTUALLY QUITE OPEN FOR MY FUTURE, BUT I REALLY LIKE THE FANS HERE IN THE REGION. THEY SHOW A LOT OF SUPPORT AND LOVE BASKETBALL.”
“I love to play in the ABL because we get to travel to different country, also the league is growing to be better.”
Perhaps it may sound like a hint for teams in the ABL who may have interests in signing the passing wizard, but Brickman continues to stress that he won’[t strictly limit himself just to teams in the region if Europe comes calling.
“I would love to stay here in the ABL, but I’m open to any opportunity that comes to me.”
During the last part of the interview, the NCAA’s fourth all-time assist leader (1,009 assists) openly shared a few tips to young players who hope to become better.
“First, learn from the best. For me, I always love watching Jason Kidd and Steve Nash. I learn a lot from watching how Steve Nash ran the pick-and-roll, so learning from the best of the bests is important. Secondly, just try to get better everyday. If you get better a little bit every day, after a while, you are going to be very good. So just improve it day-by-day.”
Mono Vampire has experienced much success recently, finishing their TBL and TBSL seasons on high notes, while Brickman was awarded as the best point guard of the league, so one could expect the team’s confidence in being crowned ABL champions. Don’t be surprised to see the passing wizard add yet another championship and individual award to his resume come the end of April.