Castro’s chase of eighth PBA title an addition to his legacy
Jayson Castro will head to his latest Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Finals appearance not only having rediscovered the fountain of youth, but also a chance to enhance a decorated career.
Confidence is high for Castro following a splendid Philippine Cup semifinal performance where he went back to his old role as TNT’s main offensive weapon and helped finish off Magnolia in Sunday’s Game 6 with an 87-74 win at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Though no longer at the peak of his powers, Castro delivered 26 points in the series-clincher that showed that after once being regarded as “Asia’s Best Point Guard,” he can still play the lead role even at the age of 36.
A TNT win against either Meralco or San Miguel Beer—the two teams that will dispute the other Finals berth in the deciding seventh game of the other half of the semis on Wednesday—in the championship series will give Castro his eighth PBA crown.
“I’ve been with the team for about 14 or 15 years, but my mentality is to win another championship and at the same time add to my legacy so that I can be a good example to the younger players,” the former Gilas Pilipinas hero said in Filipino.
The odds of how Castro and the Tropang Giga can be successful will depend on how they can match up against either June Mar Fajardo and the talent-laden Beermen, or the Bolts and their team-oriented system.
TNT coach Chot Reyes acknowledged that either team will pose a stern test for TNT as it tries to retain temporary possession of the Jun Bernardino Perpetual Trophy.
“It’s going to test our versatility, because each team presents a different problem,” Reyes said when asked about the Tropang Giga’s potential foes in the climax of the PBA’s opening tournament.
“We all know the problem San Miguel presents with June Mar, with their size and their overall talent. And then Meralco presents a different kind of problem with their scrappiness and the way they play defense, and they have great size in the wing position. Meralco doesn’t post their bigs up, they post their wingmen up. That’s a completely different approach, a completely different problem for us.
“And you know us, we like to play small, so it presents a different problem for us. And the fact that [the Meralco-SMB series is at] 3-3 shows you just how even it is. So for us, a very different problem. We’re really going to be tested,” Reyes concluded.
Six of Castro’s seven titles since joining the big league in 2008 came in the All-Filipino tournament, including last season’s unlikely run in Bacolor, Pampanga, where he played more of a supporting role to then-TNT rookie Mikey Williams.
But with Williams having to face a tough Magnolia defense throughout the semifinal series, Castro stepped up to the plate, particularly his three-pointer that gave TNT the win in Game 3 and an 11-point third quarter and a clutch three in the fourth in Game 6 that put Magnolia to bed.
“Magnolia’s defense was really working hard on denying Mikey, and as a veteran, I need to really take over because I was able to see things that would help me get good shots,” he said. INQ