For many PBA players, they remember their best season as being the year they attained their best statistical output.
For one player, however, finishing with averages of 12.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 0.5 steals per game while shooting 38% from the field would hardly qualify (based on the numbers) as a stellar season. But winning two PBA titles, two Finals MVP awards, a Best Player of the Conference (BPC), earning an All-Star selection, a Mythical 1st team nod and cap off everything by being crowned league MVP add to the argument that statistics are secondary in achieving great success.
These were the numbers retired PBA guard Jimmy Alapag had during the 2010-11 campaign with the Talk 'N Text Tropang Texters in what he calls his best season as a pro.
What was your best season and why was it special?
In 2011, my stats were good, I don't think they were great. But our team just dominated the whole season. We won the first two conferences and we were so banged up heading into that third conference and still got to Game 7 (of the finals), made a late import switch in Game 6. We gave it everything we had.
Talk 'N Text may have fielded their best team in franchise history during the 2010-2011 season with the acquisition of veterans Larry Fonacier, Ryan Reyes, and former MVP Kelly Williams to add to its core of Alapag, bruiser Ali Peek, versatile forward Ranidel de Ocampo and developing youngsters Jared Dillinger and Jayson Castro. Alapag, who had been asked to score heavily in the advent of his PBA career since being selected tenth overall in the 2003 Draft, led the playmaking department as Coach Chot Reyes made it a point to get everyone involved in making the Tropang Texters a cohesive and dangerous unit. And that also made Alapag more dangerous as he still kept his efficiency ratings up while being a key component in his squad racking up victories after several fruitless seasons.
How do you perceive racking up numbers and getting victories?
For me, it was never about the stats. I was a point guard my whole career so that means technically you have the ball in your hands most of the game so if I was going for stats I would have sacrificed winning and just jacked up twenty shots a game. But that was never what I was about. It was always about winning. I felt that at that stage of my career I was efficient and I still had the ability to score like (in my early playing days in the league), however, because of the way our team was built, I was completely OK taking eight shots a game and being 5 for 8 from the field with 12 points and 10 assists. That was more than OK with me because of the talent that we had and that we were winning and winning often.
Despite never leading his team in scoring during the entire Finals series of the 2011 Philippine Cup conquest against the San Miguel Beermen, Alapag shared Finals MVP honors with Castro and when an undersized Paul Harris was brought in for the Commissioner's Cup, Alapag led the assists barrage and was a major catalyst in Tak 'N Text's 4-2 triumph over Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.
Although Petron Blaze (the former San Miguel team) went on to deny the Tropang Texters in their rendezvous with Grand Slam destiny by emerging victorious in the highly-emotional Governors' Cup, Alapag's season-long brilliance as an orchestrator and bonafide team leader had him being feted with the MVP award, becoming the lowest draft pick since Ato Agustin to snare the accolade.
After giving credit to his powerhouse roster of teammates and the immediate coaching staff, Alapag singled out an unlikely member of the coaching staff as the one he gives the most credit to for helping him in what he calls his best ever season in the PBA.
Which individual made a difference for you during your best season?
One guy in particular and that was coach Jamike Jarin. Before Coach Jamike came on board with our staff the year prior, I just had an OK season. I just felt that I could do better. So when he came in he said, 'hey, let's kinda strip everything down and get back to work.' Coach Jamike and I worked tirelessly before practice and after practice and I told him, 'whatever it is you need me to do, I'm all ears.' We got in the gym and just worked and worked and (the result was) we came to within one quarter of a Grand Slam and I ended up winning MVP. He was a huge factor. Not only did Coach Jamike help me rededicate myself at that point in my career, but he also brought back some of the fun.
I took my career very, very seriously. I was all about the team, I was all about us winning and when we didn't, I was affected. Having Coach Jamike come on board, he understood how serious my approach was but he always reminded me that I still had to have fun out there. He said, 'you're one of the top guards in the league, you're going to come back and be the best guard in the league but enjoy all of this.' Just hearing that, it was a big key for me. He was a mentor to me back then and he's someone I'm still very, very close to now.
Alapag worked his way up, from being a doubtful rookie to being known as a scoring guard to being league MVP. The stats did not make his best season happen, it was just everything coming together at the right time to make this 5'9" phenom an icon in the league.