Dubbed as the player to replace three-time ABL MVP Bobby Ray Parks, Jr., Jeremiah Gray struggled to find his minutes in San Miguel Alab Pilipinas’ first six games.
But up against arguably the player with the best pedigree currently in the ABL in OJ Mayo, the 23-year-old Filipino-American showed why he deserves more minutes.
Tuesday afternoon, Mayo — the third overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft — was torching Alab. After the first 37 minutes of the game, the 6-foot-4 guard already had 27 points.
Figuring in a close game, Alab head coach Jimmy Alapag put all his trust in one player to stop Mayo — the 6-foot-4 Gray.
“We wanted to try different guys on OJ just to try to make him as uncomfortable as possible, and we felt that Miah’s length and his athleticism would hopefully affect him. He’s shooting so well from the perimeter and we thought that him being able to contest better than some other guys [would work],” said Alapag.
“It was actually a big challenge.
“Very good player, eight-year NBA vet. The coaches trusted me to guard him tonight, and I took the challenge head-on,” added Gray.
Saddled with three fouls, Gray still stuck to Mayo like glue. During the clutch, the Filipino-American swingman swatted away two of Mayo’s shots.
And that’s just on the defensive end.
On offense, Gray knocked down two huge triples that put Alab up 99-94 with 58.9 ticks left. The home team eventually won 101-96 — a huge bounce-back win after absorbing a 93-98 loss to Macau at the same San Juan venue just two days ago.
Admittedly, Grey felt hurt with just an average of 19.3 minutes per game during his first six games with Alab. But he knew he had to earn his stripes.
“I didn’t really feel discouraged. Of course, it’s frustrating. But like I said, I trust coach. I trust his game plan and I just stayed ready for any opportunity that I can get,” said the 2019 Jones Cup champion, who finished with 17 points, six assists, five rebounds, three steals, and two blocks in 32 minutes of game time.
“The opportunity came tonight.”
Known as an offensive player, Gray hopes that his first stint with Alab makes him more of a two-way player eventually.
This game proved that he can be one.
“Coming in this year, I wasn’t really a defensive player, but I just changed my mindset and do whatever I can to help the team, and if it’s defense, I’m gonna do that. That was just my mindset coming in.”