The Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters have struggled so far in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup, opening with a 2-4 record, but Jason Perkins isn’t one of the reasons behind their slow start.
The 28-year-old power forward might not be the biggest player or flashiest scorer, but that has not stopped him from becoming one of the best supporting stars in his third year in the PBA.
While playing for the DLSU Green Archers in the UAAP during his collegiate years, Perkins was primarily operating as a hard-nosed rebounder with a soft touch inside and the ability to hit an occasional jumpshot.
Despite his heft, Perkins was deceptively quick and had (and still has) a high basketball IQ, which enabled him to make an impact immediately in his rookie year where he was named a member of the UAAP Mythical Five.
After winning two UAAP championships with La Salle, he was picked fourth overall in the 2017 PBA Draft by Phoenix and took the league by storm. Perkins, who traces his local roots to Bolinao, Pangasinan, slimmed-down in preparation for the PBA and immediately reaped the benefits of his hard work.
Though he lost weight, his added muscle allowed him to maintain his rebounding prowess and knack for scoring inside which he ably paired with his newfound mobility and improved quickness. He has also made strides as a secondary playmaker and ball-handler while his jump shot has matured into a reliable weapon.
Perkins was named the 2018 PBA Rookie of the Year and an All-Star the following season, quickly establishing himself as one of the better players in the league. Phoenix has flourished with him onboard, finishing the last two editions of the Philippine Cup eliminations in the top two and making it to the semifinals both times.
The Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters entered the league-wide break triggered by the Enhanced Community Quarantine in Metro Manila with only one win, but they kicked off the league’s restart at the DHVSU Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga with a bang.
In their first game back, they found a way to steal a come-from-behind 78-77 win over the Rain or Shine Elasto Pacers last September 2. Phoenix trailed by as much as 18 points in the early goings of the second half and were still behind by 10 points with less than three minutes left in the game.
Their leading scorer Matthew Wright had missed all 14 of his field goal attempts at that point of the match and Vic Manuel was hampered by the effects of dehydration from the previous day.
Perkins, who is the only player to have started in all of Phoenix’s games this conference, picked up the slack in their absence and churned out his best game this season. He recorded 18 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, two threes, and a block in the win.
His mid-range shot cut Rain or Shine’s lead to three with less than two minutes to go then he found RR Garcia for two consecutive corner jumpers on the next two possessions that gave them the lead, 76-74, with 42 seconds left to play. Gabe Norwood tied it up for the Elasto Painters in the next possession before Wright sunk his lone field goal of the game with two seconds left to secure the victory.
In typical Perkins fashion, his big showing was overshadowed by his teammates. Wright’s game-winner and the reserve guard Garcia’s best game of the season (18 points on seven-of-11 from the field) stole the headlines, albeit it was Perkins who kept them afloat throughout the game.
Beyond his statistics (12.6 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.8 threes, 1 steal, and 1 block per game), his intangibles continue to be his most significant contribution on the court. He remains an effective screen-setter with an ability to pop or roll and his willingness to make an extra pass or whatever the right play is at the moment is invaluable.
This most recent win might be a sign that Phoenix is about to turnaround their season, especially if Perkins continues to perform at this level. He is also beginning to gain recognition around the league and his name has begun to pop up in trade rumors involving the bigger franchises in the league. What makes him even more attractive to these star-studded teams is that his style of play is conducive to playing alongside high-usage players.
Whether he stays with Phoenix or is eventually dealt to another team, Perkins has established himself as a bona fide star in the PBA and is a living testament to the value of hard work.
He may not get the recognition that he deserves among casual fans who put more value on scorers and flamboyant dribbling, but for basketball purists, Perkins’ crafty ways will continue to be a must-watch in the PBA and this show looks like its going to go on for at least the next decade.