AT this stage of his career, Jayson Castro said he is asserting himself more of becoming a leader with TNT as he looks to help the KaTropa get back to becoming one of the elite teams in the PBA.
The 33-year-old Castro said he is taking the cue from his former teammates with TNT and Gilas Pilipinas in Jimmy Alapag and LA Tenorio in also sharing his knowledge in the game now that he is in his 11th year with the KaTropa.
The effort is also rooted from his determination to win the 2019 PBA Commissioner’s Cup after suffering lean years and playoff disappointments after winning their last title in 2015, and finishing runners-up in 2017 of the same conference.
“Mas wino-work out ko ‘yung pagiging leader sa team kasi tinuturuan ko ‘yung mga young guys kung pano maglaro sa playoffs. Hopefully, marami silang malaman, like ‘yung nalaman ko kay Jimmy sa Gilas at sa TNT at kay LA siyempre, kasi sila ‘yung mga nag-guide sa akin,” said Castro.
With Castro taking the leadership role along with the acquisition of former NBA player Terrence Jones as import, the KaTropa finished the eliminations with a 10-1 win-loss record and take first place in the standings.
While Jones has been making the headlines with his do-it-all game, Castro has continued to become steady, averaging 13.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 6.8 assists, and 1.9 steals during the Commissioner’s Cup elimination round.
Alapag said Castro remains one of the best guards in the country despite his age.
“That’s the nature of game. Jayson, I’ve played with him for 10 years and in all those 10 years, maybe nine of them with Gilas, we’ve been through a lot together. For me, it’s been amazing how Jayson’s growth not just as a basketball player but as a leader and what he’s done with Gilas and with TNT.
“He has a family now, he is married now. A lot has changed but after all these years, he is still one of the best,” Alapag said.
Castro said TNT committed itself to excellence knowing the potential of the team to reach as far as the finals.
“’Yung sinet na goal namin, every game counts talaga especially this team. Alam namin na malaki ang potensyal na umabot sa finals. During offseason, kami mismo nag-commit na ibigay natin ‘yung best natin and tingnan kung hanggang saan. During the eliminations, nakita namin na malaki ‘yung chance na umabot sa finals. Pero siyempre, ‘yung finals, ibang usapan ‘yun,” said Castro.
The KaTropa did have bumps along the way including a 36-point beating at the hands of eighth seed Alaska in the quarterfinals. TNT recovered and beat Alaska, 104-93, in a game where consultant Mark Dickel hailed Castro for his leadership.
“Jayson’s leadership during the three days, coming back after being beaten by 36 points, there is no doubt that self-doubt starts to creep in when you are beaten like that,” said Dickel then.
After beating Ginebra in the best-of-five semifinal series, 3-1, TNT is seeking to end a title drought with the KaTropa last winning a title in the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup. For Castro, this conference represents the best chance for TNT to win the crown and break the drought.
“’Yun ‘yung challenge ko rin sa sarili ko. Siyempre, nandoon sa point na parang patapos na ang peak ko so eto ‘yung time na manalo ng championship talaga especially Terrece, sobrang fit siya sa amin. ‘Yun nga, sobrang tagal na namin hindi nagchachampion. At the same time, ‘yung mga bago, kailangan din nila i-prove ‘yung sarili nila na ‘yung TNT, gusto namin makabalik kung ano kami dati,” said Castro.