Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Maverick and Jerrick Ahanmisi: Flying under the radar

With the Ahanmisi brothers Jerrick (top photo) and Maverick (bottom picture)
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Maverick and Jerrick Ahanmisi: Flying under the radar
by rick olivares

There’s a six-foot-two dude in a white shirt and a baseball cap up in the stands of the Filoil Flying V Centre. He’s taking in the ongoing ball game between the Adamson Falcons and the Mapua Cardinals.

On the court, a skinny six-foot kid plucks an errant pass and hightails it down the opposite end. The defense closes him down and he passes off. The skinny kid moves into another spot. He gets the return pass but his shot from beyond the three-point arc bricks.

The dude up the stands doesn’t flinch.

Two plays later, the skinny kid drills one from way out. All net.

The dude up in the stands still doesn’t flinch even if the folks around him slap his back and offer congratulatory words.

Truth is, Maverick Ahanmisi, the dude up in the stands, is anxious. Anxious for his younger brother Jerrick who is now playing for the Falcons after coming over from Village Christian High School in Sun Valley, Los Angeles, California. “I’m nervous for my brother,” said the 24-year old who three days ago just won his first Philippine Basketball Association championship with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. 

“I’m just trying to be cool and not show it,” he grins.

Big brother played in all 23 matches of the just-concluded PBA Commissioner’s Cup where in 22 minutes of action per outing, he tallied 10.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.2 assists versus 2.2 turnovers. “Just a rookie but he’s hitting big shots,” marveled his pro coach, Yeng Guiao. “And he will get better."

Skinny younger brother — although he has somewhat bulked up after he arrived as a skin and bones wide-eyed kid — has put up an average of 11.5 points, 1.4 rebounds, 0.8 assists, and 0.6 steals in five matches in the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup. His best stat line in the country’s premier pre-season tourney was during an 83-78 win over defending NCAA champion Letran where Jerrick scored a game high 26 points in addition to five boards, three assists, two steals, and one block. “You don’t know how good that felt,” sighed Jerrick after struggling in his previous matches. “I was starting to wonder if I left my game back in California.”

The Ahanmisi brothers were born in the United States to a Nigerian father and a Filipina mother. Hoops ruled their household, their talk, and dreams. “Throw in the California sunshine, girls, NBA basketball, and hanging out,” laughed Maverick some more.

“We used to play one-on-one,” recounted Jerrick. “He would always beat me. But that’s because he is older. In a few years, man, I’m gonna beat him. But seriously, I love my big brother. He really helps me get through the difficult times. Like now, adjusting to life and basketball here in Manila."

Maverick is just happy that Jerrick is over here as well. "I wasn’t able to watch him play when he was in high school (Village Christian HS in Sun Valley, CA) because I was in college. Now that we’re both here in Manila, I have a chance to watch him."

The elder Ahanmisi was a surprise number three overall pick in the last PBA Draft. Coming out of the University of Minnesota, Maverick wrecked a lot of analysts and armchair generals’ mock drafts. “Story of my life,” he chuckled. Then he amends his statement, “Our lives.”

It seems that is the norm for the Ahanmisi brothers who have this habit of flying under the radar. “And proving people wrong,” clarifies the eldest of the three sibling brood (they have a sister named Mylene). "It has been like that since high school and college up to coming over here. Everywhere I went no one really knew who I was. I always flew under the radar. But it’s good to show that I belong."

Following Jerrick’s breakout match of the summer, Adamson Falcons head coach Franz Pumaren promised, “A lot of teams will regret passing up on him."

“I think that Jerrick plays a little too cool,” observed his older brother. "He’s so young that he doesn’t realize how good he can be. He’s got better range than I had at his age. When he first arrived, he was being pushed around. He wasn’t sure what he could get away with. It was a matter of getting used to the physicality. First few games, he was groping. Now I think it will take a few more months. Wait until the big college season opens. I watched him a couple of times. I am just happy to see him. I want him to play well. Am anxious for him and his team to win.”

During Adamson’s tournament opener against La Salle, the Falcons got crushed 98-88, with a late flurry cutting down what was a huge lead. “It really is a learning experience for me,” underscored Jerrick who looked flustered at being blitzed by faster and stronger guards. Maverick’s younger bro finished with five points in 15 minutes of playing time as he picked up four quick fouls curtailing his debut. "Sometimes, you think you’re ready for it but you will never know until you go through it. I’ll come back better."

“Besides, I have my big brother here for me."

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