IT may seem odd not seeing the name of superstar James Yap either in the Mythical First or Second teams in the recent PBA Annual Leo Awards.
These days, Yap may be a lot prouder if he makes it to the All-Defensive team.
Instead, the 6-foot-2 former two-time league MVP is focused on excelling in his new calling – playing defense especially in the ongoing PBA Governors Cup Finals against Petron.
After the Mixers moved just a win away from clinching the season-ending conference title by winning Game Five, 114-103, for a 3-2 series lead, Yap said he’s more determined to do well on the task at hand.
“Alam niyo naman na masunurin tayo eh,” Yap said with a smile, obviously referring to a sudden change in his role with San Mig from a top gunner to a defensive stopper.
The shooting guard out of University of the East said coach Tim Cone has been preaching team defense all throughout the season as the key to winning championships.
Now, the Mixers are simply responding to Cone’s marching orders, aware that when they play as a single unit, winning titles would eventually follow.
“Importante lang eh isipin pa rin namin `yung maglaro ng depense. Iyun ang mindset namin ngayon at dagdagan pa namin `yung effort namin sa depensa for that game (Game Six),” added Yap.
The 31-year-old pride of Escalante, Negros Occidental said he’s inspired by the aggressive play of teammate Mark Barroca, who has been instrumental in San Mig's back-to-back wins in the Finals.
“Si Barroca, halos lahat ginagawa niya, depensa, score, sobrang malaking bagay sa amin si Mark,” Yap said proudly of the 27-year-old sophomore playmaker.
“Laging nagsu-shooting yan eh. Lagi niyang sinasabi sa akin na, 'Paiiyakin ko `yung net.' Talagang masipag na bata.”
Since entering the league as the second overall pick in the 2004 draft, Yap has earned three Mythical First team selections (2005-2006, 2009-2010 and 2011-2012) and one Mythical second team distinction (2010-2011).
He was league MVP in 2005-2006 and 2009-2010.