There are definitely personal frustrations over missing the cut for the 46th PBA Season Draft, but Filipino-American star prospects Jeremiah Gray and Jason Brickman are nonetheless still determined to find a way into the league one way or another.
For both first round-caliber guards, the road to the PBA will have to go through the league's inaugural 3x3 tournament for now.
"It's obviously frustrating, but rules are rules and at least we still get a chance to play in the country, in the PBA. Even though it's 3-on-3, it's still an opportunity to play in the main league in the Philippines, so hopefully it does lead to the 5-on-5," Gray, TNT Tropang Giga's first signee for their 3x3 team, said on the 2OT podcast on Saturday.
Brickman, who bared that he has been trying to get into the league for about five years now, concurred and said he's also still looking forward to suiting up for the Meralco Bolts once the season opens.
"I think me and (agent) Charlie (Dy) applied in 2016 to try to enter the draft, so it's been five years now that we've been trying to get in. A little bit frustrated, but I think I'm just excited for this opportunity to play on 3-on-3," said the 29-year-old guard. "I'm hoping that it will lead to me one day playing in the PBA 5-on-5. Either way, I'm grateful to be a part of this league and to be part of Meralco Bolts."
Brickman and Gray were among 11 players deemed ineligible by the PBA for its Rookie Draft. Papers remained a problem, as the duo couldn't complete the necessary documents -- a Certificate of Recognition as a Filipino citizen from the Bureau of Immigration, and the Affirmation as a Filipino citizen from the Department of Justice.
But both players, as well as other Fil-foreigners, are allowed to see action in the 3x3 league since the PBA adopted FIBA's rules for the format where only a Philippine passport is required.
Both Gray and Brickman said they'll look to complete their papers while playing in the 3x3 league to make it in time for next season's rookie draft.
"I'll be happy to get those documents done while being out here. Hopefully I can meet the right people and hopefully I can get it done so I can join the next draft," said Brickman. "That's what I'm hopeful for, playing for 3x3 this year and next year joining the 5-on-5."
Gray said there's only a minor problem in his papers he'll need to have certified.
"I don't think I will have too much trouble as far as being eligible, because the only problem with my papers is the difference in my mom's last name and her dad's last name spelled differently by one letter. That's the only reason why I wasn't eligible this year," said the 25-year-old Gray.
"All we need to do is get an affidavit and submit that and wait for it to process, so I'll have a lot of time now. I'm going to get on that as soon as I can and hopefully everything goes smooth and they approve me this time, everything is clean and clear, and I'll get to step into that draft next year."
In the meantime, the chance to make their respective teams the first-ever 3x3 champion in PBA history awaits in April.
Brickman said he actually spurned a contract offer in Israel just to be able to play in the Philippines.
"I was about to sign a contract out there but when I heard about the 3-on-3 league, I wanted take the opportunity to stick around here," said Brickman.
"I was actually going to go home first to Texas. I was in my layover in Paris, then I found out I have to come straight here before the lockdown," he continued. "I ended up losing my luggage so I barely just have two pairs of shirts and shorts."
Gray, on the other hand, passed on a chance to form a pro team with 3x3 star Kareem Maddox in favor of the PBA. Maddox is the 17th-ranked player in the world today and was a key piece in the Team USA squad that clinched its first-ever gold medal in the FIBA 3x3 World Cup back in 2019.
"Actually back at home once I found out that possibly I'm going to be playing 3-on-3 this year, Kareem (Maddox) hit me up and we had some private training sessions. He brought his guys from Team USA and a few other guys came in and got to practice playing an actual 3x3 with them, because they ought to prepare as well for [the] Doha [World Tour Masters] this month.
"They actually wanted to form like a whole new team," he continued. "But once I heard the opportunity to come out here, I couldn't pass it up. I'll always play for the Philippines for sure."
In playing 3x3 basketball, both stars admitted there will certainly be a lot of adjustments that they'll have to make, especially given the game's up-tempo pace.
"It's going to take a lot of adjustment to get used to being on a half-court, only playing with two other teammates at a time," said Brickman. "I played a lot of 3-on-3 growing up when I was younger so I have experience playing it, but it's obvious 3-on-3 is so much different than 5-on-5 where you go up and down playing. It's something I'm going to have to get used to, but it's something I'm excited for."
"It was actually shocking because it's a way different game than I expected, and I've heard people tell me that before," Gray opened. "It was shocking how tired I was, how fast-paced it was. I thought it was going to be a slower game, but it's way faster-paced."
Gray and Brickman, however, have certain skillsets that will obviously translate well into the 3x3 circuit.
For Brickman, a pass-first guard, scoring would be a more important priority.
"Playing in 3-on-3, you're going to have a lot more space to work with and I think it's going to be more of a scoring game," he said. "I'm so excited for the 3-on-3 because I'm going to have more scoring opportunities and I know it's going to bring out my scoring, being more offensive-minded, so that's what I'm most excited about."
Gray, meanwhile, said he's looking to take advantage of his unique blend of size and ability to score from anywhere in the half-court.
"I feel like I can score in all three levels, so whatever my defender is going to give me, that's where I'm going to go for. I'm going to try to take advantage of my height and if I do have smaller people on me, I'm going to try to post-up a little more this year," he said.