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Jason Perkins: Playing Physical - UAAP Season 76

Jason Perkins: Playing Physical

By: Paolo Mariano | Aug 20th 2014

La Salle's burly yet versatile forward Jason Perkins relishes the physical style of play in the UAAP.

Jason Perkins was supposed to play for San Beda. 

One fateful day, however, drastically changed the path of his basketball career.

On December 3, 2011, then-Red Lions head coach Frankie Lim and some of his players were involved in a melee with San Sebastian Lady Stags coach Roger Gorayeb during an NCAA women’s volleyball game at the San Beda Gym. It was an ugly fracas that led to a female spiker getting injured.

The real story behind it will forever be skewed by the opposing parties. But it was clear that it had something to do with racial slurs.

NCAA officials didn’t take the incident lightly. They slapped a stiff two-year ban on Lim and Gorayeb and suspended the erring Red Lions for several games. Not wanting to waste his time on the backburner, Lim decided to submit his resignation despite having won four titles with the team.

The fiery Lim was the one who recruited Perkins to San Beda.

“I was ready to join San Beda. I was already practicing with the team. But then, Coach Frankie left (so I left too),” said Perkins, who starred for Shakopee High School in Minnesota.

Moving to Taft

In came De La Salle University. The team’s brass got in touch with the 6-foot-3 forward and invited him to visit the campus. It was love at first sight. Like seeing a sneaker he immediately wanted. Soon, he was practicing with the Green Archers.

“My first night (in the players’ quarters), guys like Norbert (Torres) and Almond (Vosotros) invited me to their room, they quickly brought me in. From there, I was sold,” recalled Perkins.

He served his mandatory one-year residency in 2012 and made his much-anticipated debut last season after impressing in off-season tournaments. 

“I’m not really that energetic but I remember my first game against UST (University of Santo Tomas), I was so hyped. I never played in front of that huge crowd before,” Perkins told uaapsports.tv.

But like most players from the United States, Perkins’ move to the Philippines wasn’t without struggles. For a teenager from a frosty place like Minnesota, suddenly being thrown into independence in Manila was as easy as making an off-handed half-court shot.

“It was hard adjusting to the heat and the traffic. I got homesick. It was difficult leaving family and friends. When there’s stuff going on at home, you just can’t go back,” said Perkins, whose mother hails from Bolinao, Pangasinan.

He’s clearly more at-home on the court though. He averaged 12.7 PPG on 52.8% FGs and 9.6 RPG in his rookie year and was instrumental in La Salle’s title conquest. He was also named to the Mythical Five—the only newcomer on the list—along with Terrence Romeo, Roi Sumang, Ray Parks, and Karim Abdul.

Fun and basketball

The southpaw forward has a natural feel for the game, having played hoops since he was growing up in the Gopher State. It’s also in his genes, with his late father being a former player at Columbia University.

Like most talented kids in the US, Perkins played AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) ball when he was a teenager. The AAU is a nationwide sports program that organizes various leagues for the youth. Almost every NBA player suited up for an AAU team. Perkins played for a squad called Pump N Run.

“It was fun. We got to go to different cities and places. In Las Vegas, we played Ray Parks’ team. He scored 30-something points on us,” reminisced Perkins.

This is where he also got his interesting Twitter handle and popular moniker among La Salle fans, “Hefty Lefty.”

“My AAU coach used to call me ‘Meatball’ because I was a round kid back then,” chuckled the 21-year-old. “Then he changed it to ‘Hefty Lefty’ because of the way I played.”

A quick browse on Perkins’ Twitter shows that he’s a droll, fun-loving guy, a bit surprising considering how he’s highly competitive and almost bullish on the court. He has clever one-liners (”Just used my designated fake laugh”), existential musings (”I wonder why it takes guts to be a Gutierrez”), and playful potshots at his teammates (“Matt Salem likes to put both of his legs in the same side and act like a mermaid”).  

“I take the game seriously, especially the little things. But I also like to have fun,” said Perkins, who has over 6,000 Twitter followers and isn’t shy about celebrating and displaying his emotions on the court.

Walking mismatch 

For opponents though, playing against Perkins is as fun as washing the dishes after a huge house party. He’s a walking mismatch. Finesse camouflaged by size. He can outmuscle smaller guys at the three spot and use his speed and mobility against bigger defenders.

He has an armory of face-up moves, a solid low post game, and a decent shot from beyond the arc. He’s also a versatile and efficient defender, handcuffing guys from Gelo Alolino to Chris Newsome to Aljon Mariano. 

His numbers may have dipped a bit to 11.6 PPG on 50.0% FGs and 8.5 RPG this season, but there’s no denying that his value to the team is beyond statistics. He sets crushing screens, boxes out tirelessly, hustles for 50-50 balls, etc. He also relishes the physical play, bodying up foes as if they’re in a mosh pit in the paint.

“I like playing physical, banging bodies with opponents. It makes the games more fun. Physicality is a good thing,” said Perkins.

“Overall, he has performed very well. His game is on the rise. He’s more aggressive, more focused on the game plan. Hopefully, he can sustain it throughout the season,” said assistant coach Jun Limpot, who regularly works with Perkins in practice.

More importantly, Perkins isn’t afraid of the pressure. He has already made a slew of big shots in his young career. In his maiden UAAP game against UST, he sent the game into overtime with a jumper. Then most recently against Ateneo de Manila University, he buried a tough fade-away with the shot clock running out to give La Salle a more comfortable three-point lead in the final 30 seconds.

Aside from his tendency to get into early foul trouble at times, it’s honestly difficult to find a glaring knock on Perkins’ game. He’s polished offensively, solid defensively, and has a high basketball IQ. He, however, will be the first one to admit that he still needs fine-tuning.

“It’s (UAAP) tough. You need to go to work or you’re going to get embarrassed. I learned that improving is a constant thing. It doesn’t matter what level you are in,” said Perkins.

Modest prognosis

After dropping their first two games, the Green Archers have been on a rampage, stringing up six straight wins to tie Ateneo and Far Eastern University atop the team standings. With Teng developing into a more well-rounded player, Perkins consistently delivering on both ends, and the bench growing more confident, they are primed to reclaim the UAAP crown.

Perkins, however, downplays their chances, albeit too humbly.

“Being the defending champs has nothing to do with this year. It’s a new team, a new season. The beauty of basketball is you can get beat by any team,” said the burly forward.

But that’s Perkins, an even-keeled, modest guy, who knows when it’s time to roll up the sleeves and roll out the jokes.  

“I just want to get better every day, have fun on and off the court, and develop as a person,” said Perkins. “The worst feeling is regret, not giving your all. That’s what I think about every day.”

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