Remember two years ago when Allein Maliksi stirred controversy after sharing a photo of shirt bearing the words "Play me or trade me"? Coming off a solid stint with the then-Tim Cone-helmed Star Hotshots, the former D-League MVP was reportedly frustrated after being used sparingly by then-coach Jason Webb two games into the 2015 Governor's Cup.
Well Maliksi, who had been suspended indefinitely at that time and averaged almost 10 points last season, is currently playing the best basketball of his life, as new mentor Chito Victolero's primary scoring option on a Hotshots team that is doing what it says on the tin—shooting [red] hot—during the home stretch of the 2017 Philippine Cup.
His offensive tear started a couple of weeks ago against the hapless Blackwater Elite, which he torched for a season-high 26 points, on top of five makes from beyond the arc.
Maliksi was clearly having his way with his opponents, toying with defenders when he's not drawing a ton of fouls (10-17 FT).
He managed to sustain his hot spell versus the Meralco Bolts three days later, starting out strong with 17 first-half points, to finish with 25, on his way to being named Player of the Week.
The swingman averaged 25.5 points and 5 rebounds in Star's two-game winning streak, while leading his squad's demolition job—destroying opossing teams by an average margin of 27 points.
Just when we thought he would simmer down after a blistering run, Maliksi culminated his offensive display by annihilating the Mahindra Floodbuster with a career-high 33 points, hitting seven from downtown in the process.
He has since cooled off in the Hotshots' last two games (9.5 PPG vs Phoenix in the quarterfinals), but Maliksi has proven to be a vital cog in Victolero's defense-first system. Sure, the UST standout have benefited from premier shooting guard James Yap being dealt, but more than anything else, it's his efforts on the court—not online—that brought him to where he is now.
After all, Star needs 'Big Game Allein' against the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in the semifinals, their first return to this point in the postseason since the Cone era.