JAYSON Castro is set to make his conference debut for a short-handed Talk ‘N Text side when it battles sister team NLEX in the main game of the PBA Governors Cup on Tuesday at the Cuneta Astrodome.
The diminutive combo guard rejoined the team in practice last week after missing the Tropang Texters’ first three games this conference due to a swollen right Achilles heel.
Coach Jong Uichico said he doesn't plan to give Castro heavy minutes in his return, opting to slowly break him into the flow of things as the cat-quick guard tries to get his rhythm back in the season-ending conference.
“Jayson is like how Ranidel (De Ocampo) will be, we break him in and if he’s alright naman, then okay. It’s just gonna be a feel-your-way later in the game,” said Uichico, whose team is tied for third and fourth spots with KIA at 2-1.
Game time is at 7 p.m.
De Ocampo, Talk ‘N Text’s reliable stretch-four, made a surprise return last week, firing 13 points, grabbing four rebounds and issuing three assists as the Tropang Texters squeaked past Alaska, 104-103.
Although Talk ‘N Text will still miss the services of veterans Ryan Reyes, Aron Aban and rookie Kevin Alas due to injuries, the newly-crowned Commissioner’s Cup champion can rely on its American import Steffphon Pettigrew and Jordanian national star Sam Daghles to provide stability.
Uichico, however, said NLEX’s 1-3 record belies its true strength, aware that the Road Warriors are capable of springing surprises.
“They (Road Warriors) lost close games and there were games they were leading but eventually lost. And they could have been 2-2, parang ganun, if they just won one game,” noted the nine-time PBA champion coach.
“They are good. And their import is masipag.”
On the other hand, NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez admitted the return of Castro can make the game a lot tougher for them.
“It’s gonna be a lot tougher because Jayson Castro is coming back,” said Fernandez, whose team dropped a heartbreaking 85-82 decision to KIA behind Hyram Bagatsing’s game-winning three-point shot in dying seconds.
Fernandez is also hopeful that the weeklong respite gave Syrian import Michel Madanly enough time to fully recover from his neck spasm, which has rendered him ineffective since debuting with 26 points against Barako Bull.
“Kailangan lang maging confident si Mike na di na uli mangyayari 'yung ganung injury,” said Fernandez. “He just has to understand that basketball is a physical game but the most important thing is makuha niya yung kumpiyansa niya.”