NINO 'KG' Canaleta was given a great opportunity. And he has started to make the most of it.
Traded from a powerhouse Barangay Ginebra squad that is full of superstars and where playing time was hard to come by, the 30-year-old Tarlac native feels blessed to be in a team and situation where he has been given the opportunity to live up to his true potential.
He finally put his athleticism to good use on Wednesday night, exploding for a career-high 41 points to lead Air21 past Globalport, 113-92, on Wednesday to lift the Express’ chances of clinching a berth in the quarterfinals of the PBA Philippine Cup.
“Maganda lang gising,” he said after hitting 14 of 22 shots, including six triples, 7-of-8 free throws, and adding seven rebounds and four assists.
Canaleta has become a journeyman after getting picked sixth overall in the 2005 draft, his playing time diminishing as he hopped from one team to the next. It was none more so evident than in his stint with the Kings where he was no more than a third-string player in his position.
“Role player lang ako, pero tinanggap ko na ganun ako,” Canaleta said.
But as he was traded to Air21 this season, Express coach Franz Pumaren knew they made the right investment, firm in his belief that his ward was bound to have his breakout game.
“I’ve been telling him I want him to really prove himself that he’ll work to continue to become one of the top players in the league,” Pumaren said. “I was telling him that his goal should be to be the Most Improved Player because he deserves it.”
With a 2006 Rookie team citation, a Mr. Quality Minutes award, and five slam dunk king trophies to his name, Canaleta hopes he can soon add to his treasure chest.
“Sinabi niya sa akin na pwede ako maging candidate, kaya nagpapasalamat ako sa kanya na binibigyan niya ako ng opportunity,” Canaleta said.
“He’s talented. He was just in a team full of superstars,” Pumaren said. “So hopefully this game will be a springboard for him playing well in the playoffs.”