JAYSON Castro isn't putting too much into his return to a Team Pilipinas jersey after serving out a suspension by Fiba for his role in the infamous brawl against Australia last July in the Fiba World Cup qualifiers.
National coach Yeng Guiao wasted no time drafting Castro for his 12-man lineup against Iran on Monday at the Mall of Asia Arena after the TNT star served the last of his three-game suspension in Friday's loss to Kazakhstan.
Castro said he is treating the Iran game as just any other game so he can stay focused on the task at hand in an all-important match.
“Same lang nung dati,” said Castro, a mainstay of the Gilas Pilipinas sides under Chot Reyes and Tab Baldwin. “One of the veterans na ako dito sa Gilas. Very important game pero parang natural game lang.”
“Ayoko rin maging excited na excited ako na mawawala ako sa rhythm o mawala ka sa focus. Parang kagaya lang ng dati,” Castro said.
The 7:30 p.m. game at the Mall of Asia Arena will see the two protagonists return to the site of the gold-medal game of the 2013 Fiba Asia Championship.
At the end of that game won by Iran, Castro was awarded with a place in the Mythical Five honors, earning the tag as Asia’s best point guard.
Now 32, Castro said his role is to be a steadying force for a new-look national team.
“’Yung past, naging lesson sa akin ‘yun. At the same time, excited ako ulit na makalaro para sa national team at makapag-provide ng leadership. As one of the veterans, ‘yun ang kailangan nila [mula sa akin] is ‘yung guidance,” Castro said.
Over the last two weeks, Castro said he has become comfortable in Guiao's system.
“Within two weeks, nakuha ko rin kung ano ‘yung mga gusto niyang ipagawa sa akin at ‘yung sa system nila. Humihingi rin ako ng advice sa mga naging under sa kanya especially sila Gabe (Norwood) and Beau (Belga).
"‘Yung information na ‘yun, ina-apply ko during practice which nagugustuhan naman ni coach Yeng. Hindi naman mahirap ‘yung pinapagawa. Basta mag-stick lang ako doon,” said Castro.