JASON Castro may just be the ace up the sleeve of Gilas Pilipinas in the Fiba-Asia Championship.
The 5-foot-11 guard is one of the few unscouted members of the national team in international competition and is likely to play a key role in the nationals’ bid to land one of the top three spots in the August 1-11 tournament for a berth in the Fiba-World Basketball Championship next year.
National coach Chot Reyes said Gilas' failure to defend its Jones Cup championship in Taipei may end up as a blessing in disguise since it leaves other teams in the dark on the final makeup of the host team.
“We would like to keep our cards close to our chest,” Reyes told the Inquirer on Saturday. “Not being invited to the Jones Cup will keep everyone in the dark, as far as our team’s composition is concerned. Let’s keep it that way for as long as we can.”
One of those "surprises" should be Castro, an athletic small man who has evolved into a complete player for Talk 'N Text with his much-improved perimeter shooting.
The former Philippine Christian University star, however, was quick to play down expectations, saying the fact that he is largely unexposed in tournaments overseas comes with negatives as well since he has to make adjustments on the fly.
“Parang sa akin, `yun nga ang sinasabi na may advantage ako dahil sa bilis ko and hindi pa ako scouted ng ibang teams,” said Castro when Spin.ph caught up with him on Saturday night following Gilas’ 84-67 win over Barako Bull in a practice game at the Ynares Center in Pasig.
"Pero tingin ko at the same time, may disadvantage din kasi experience ko di pa gaano kalaki sa international (competitions)," he added.
Castro said his training with Gilas has been a long adjustment period as he gets used to international play. He even had to get used to the more stringent Fiba rules on travelling violation after being called for errors thrice during one Gilas game in Lithuania.
“May game na tatlong beses ako nag-travel sa Lithuania kaya number one na in-adjust ko talaga `yun. Sana naman maging advantage ako sa team para magamit ko quickness ko,” he added.
Castro and the rest of Gilas Pilipinas is set to leave on Tuesday afternoon for a 10-day training camp and series of tune-up matches in New Zealand.