FOR someone who hardly got a second look in the national pool, Ryan Reyes’ spot in the 14-man Gilas Pilipinas lineup never looked more secure as it was on Wednesday night.
The unheralded veteran shooting guard proved his worth by making a difference for the national team in its 81-70 win over Iran in their tune-up game at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Thrust into the starting lineup, Reyes repaid coach Tab Baldwin’s faith by pumping in 12 points, including nine in the third quarter – all on three-pointers - where the Filipino dribblers maintained a double-digit cushion that was enough to weather a late Iranian storm.
“Ryan is just a guy I really like a lot,” Baldwin admitted. “I think he understands my confidence in him. He plays very comfortably with me. That was no mistake, no fluke that he started. I'm very confident in Ryan.”
Known more for his defense, Reyes showed his shooting prowess by knocking all but one of his five three-point attempts.
“It just felt good today, so I just kept shooting,” the Tropang TNT shooting guard said. “These guys were giving me the ball and I was open, so I just threw it up there.”
Reyes’ shooting touch comes in handy for a team riddled by injuries to its pure shooters in Marcio Lassiter and Jeff Chan.
“Hopefully they come back,” the 32-year-old cager said. “I’m praying for quick healing for those guys,”
“But like coach said, this is a free-willing offense,” he added. “He lets everyone take the shot if they’re open. If it’s a good shot, you might not get another good look like that, especially against guys that are tall and long and fast.”
But that won’t keep the 6-foot-2 off-guard from still doing what he does best.
“I’m going to continue to play the defense that I play,” the four-time PBA All-Defensive team member said. “There’s a lot of adjustment – these guys are a lot quicker, bigger, and you just got to be aware at all times.”
Baldwin is glad to have the ultimate two-way player in Reyes.
“I think he's one of the best players that can have out on the floor in any situation,” he said. “He's intelligent, he's defensively tough, he's physically very tough and when he's hitting shots, then you have the best of both worlds with him.”