In the end, Jason Brickman’s 1,000th assist wasn’t overly flashy. A strong drive down the right-hand side of the key followed by a quick rotation and a kick out to an eagerly waiting Gerrell Martin for an easy three. One pass, one shot, one bucket.
It’s been that way for Brickman for quite awhile now. Even though he was lightly recruited out of high school, LIU’s senior point guard managed to achieve nearly everything he could’ve dreamed during four years in Brooklyn. Three NEC championships, 81 victories, 1,009 assists, along with hundreds of memories and fans.
“It’s been just unbelievable,” Brickman said about the experience after his final game in a Blackbirds uniform. “I was tearing up before the game after shoot around just thinking about everything I’ve been through during the four years and playing for coach [Jack] Perri. He’s the one who recruited me, so I just wanted to come out here and win for him. I came out here every day and tried to thank him for giving me a chance at the Division I level. To come out with three championships and to have all the success that I’ve had here. It’s been an unbelievable experience for me.”
The experience started slowly. Brickman played just 23 minutes per game as a freshman on a loaded Blackbirds squad that advanced to the NCAA tournament. Still, he finished with 180 assists. From his sophomore season on, Brickman was handed the keys to the LIU attack by then head coach Jim Ferry. The results were quickly apparent. Brickman averaged 7.3 assists per game as a sophomore, 8.5 assists per game as a junior, and 10.0 assists per game as a senior. Because the Blackbirds played five fewer games this season, Brickman finished with the same number of assists (290) as his junior campaign.
What is impressive though is that Brickman’s assist-to-turnover ratio also improved as he took on a larger burden of the offense. During his senior season, with every team concentrated on containing him, Brickman had a 2.8:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. The best ratio since he took full reigns of the offense as a sophomore. Brickman also increased his points output each season, finishing at 11.3 points per game as a senior, making him just the second player all-time to average a points-assists double-double.
In fact, if you combine Brickman’s points and assists since he took over the offense full-time as a sophomore, he accounted for more than 2,900 points, about 39% of the total points LIU has scored during that three-year period.
A lot of that is because of the distribution of Brickman’s assists. It wasn’t surprising that his 1,000th assist was a kick out to the perimeter. About 38% of the 1,009 assists during Brickman’s career went for threes. Whether that’s of the conventional drive-and-kick variety or the the handoffs he loved to execute during the fast break.
The majority of Brickman’s assists though came at the rim. Playing alongside Julian Boyd, Jamal Olasewere, and others during his four-year career Brickman played with tons of players with the ability to get to the rim (54% of assists). That’s why just 8% of his assists went for two-point jumpers.
The connection between Brickman and Boyd was incredibly special. While they were only able to play together for 2.5 seasons, the two Texans had a connection on the court that superseded only basketball. Boyd had an unnatural ability to find a crease in the defense when running the court and Brickman always knew where to find him. That’s why it’s no surprise that Boyd was the recipient of 162 of Brickman’s assists, the most of any Blackbird.
“My favorite is passing to Julian and playing with him because he just has unbelievable hands and he runs the floor and he just really knows the game well,” Brickman said. “It was really fun playing with him. We just played off each other so much and he’s one of the best players I’ve played with and the pick-and-rolls.”
The two players were hoping though that they’d have a little more time together. Boyd injured his knee early last season. He was hoping to return for opening day in November, but two rehab setbacks meant that even though the NCAA granted him a sixth season of eligibility, Boyd was unable to use it on the court. It certainly left Brickman wondering, “What if?”
“I wish he could’ve played this year because I was looking forward to one more year with him and him just running the floor and catching everything and throwing lobs to him,” Brickman said wistfully about Boyd.
Without Boyd on the court the Blackbirds were forced to get creative this season. Brickman continued to make plays, averaging those double-digit assists, and getting players involved. Even though Landon Atterberry played with Brickman for a single season, he’s sixth in the most received assists. Gerrell Martin came on strong during the second half of his junior season and is fifth on the list.
“Obviously I think Gerrell this year was the best shooter,” Brickman said. “He was just knocking down shots, especially late. Late in the season he stepped up for us and he was great.”
Having talent around a player with great vision is obviously a requirement for 1,000 career assists. Brickman had the good fortune of playing on a team that went to three consecutive NEC championships. These players are the ones that benefitted the most from his presence during the past four seasons:
While Perri and the Blackbirds are certainly sad to see Brickman go, the other NEC teams are probably excited to see him leave. Brickman tortured the NEC for four seasons. It shows when you look at the teams he’s had the most assists against. Brickman victimized Quinnipiac so often the Bobcats had to run away to the MAAC this season so they didn’t have to see him one or two more times.
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No more teams need to worry about Brickman anymore. The Blackbirds’ 2013-14 and his season are complete. It was a great career though. Brickman was one of the best point guards in NEC and NCAA history. It’s a legacy that many players have helped accomplish; 1,000 assists will live on.