ARWIND Santos is content with being a sidekick to June Mar Fajardo as the setup has worked wonders for San Miguel Beer in its PBA Governors’ Cup conquest at the expense of Alaska.
With Fajardo’s continued rapid development, the SMB star forward has slowly been reduced to a supporting role and that was none more apparent than in the season-ending conference where he became the third option behind the league’s best big man and import AZ Reid.
“Alam ko na hindi na ako 'yung go-to guy,” Santos admitted after the title-clinching 91-81 win over the Aces in Game Four on Friday night. “Nandyan na si June Mar at ako yung best backup niya.”
“Hindi na ako makikipag-sapawan at makikipag-agawan,” he added. “Basta ang gusto namin, si June Mar ang iaangat namin at sabay namin iaangat ang bawat isa.”
In four games in the series, Santos has scored in double digits in only one game, ending up averaging just 8.3 points on 9.3 attempts, along with 8.5 rebounds in 31 minutes.
The 34-year-old Santos has learned to embrace the new role for coach Leo Austria, focusing his efforts more on defense, best typified by his game-saving, chase-down block on JVee Casio in Game Three.
“Masaya pa rin ako dahil hindi naman lahat ng oras, nandun tayo sa tuktok,” the former league MVP said. “Minsan ilalagay ka sa ilalim, ilalagay ka sa gitna. At dapat alam mo kung paano ka mag-a-adjust at kung paano ka makakatulong sa team ko.”
But becoming a defensive lynchpin was nothing new for the 6-foot-4 Santos, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and seven-time All-Defensive Team member.
“Kung ano yung posisyon na binigay sa akin, alam ko bakit mo binigay sa akin ‘yan,” the nine-year league veteran out of Far Eastern University said. “Alam ko kaya ko yan. Pinag-aralan ko mabuti.”
The sacrifice has paid off as Santos captured the third championship of his career and second this season.
The Pampanga native is also happy that he can celebrate this title longer. A short party after the Philippine Cup conquest left them in a hangover in the Commissioner’s Cup, where they failed to qualify even for the quarterfinals.
“Ang masarap nito, talagang malalasap namin itong championship na ‘to dahil ang haba ng bakasyon namin,” Santos said.
“At tingin ko hindi lang ito yung makukuha naming championship,” he added. “‘Wag lang kaming magsawa at lagi lang kaming manatiling uhaw, lagi kaming mag-improve.”