JIMMY Alapag is hardly surprised that Jayson Castro is performing the way he has been for Gilas Pilipinas in the Fiba Asia Championship in China.
Castro has stood out for the nationals with his timely and consistent scoring, filling the leadership role Alapag had provided in the past.
“I had no doubt that he’d be ready for this tournament and he’s just showing what I’ve known for a long time,” Alapag said in a chat with Spin.ph on Friday after Meralco practice.
“I’m just happy for him, because I see the leadership that he’s showing,” the former national team star added. “He’s leading not only by his example, but by his play. He’s been off the charts in China.”
Alapag admitted he would’ve loved to share the court with his longtime teammate, but his quadriceps injury proved to be the biggest hindrance in his bid to make a national team comeback.
“Absolutely (I wish I could’ve been there),” said Alapag, who recently came out of retirement. “It’s always a unique opportunity to represent the country. It was just unfortunate that I got hurt.”
“At the same time, I don’t think I would’ve helped myself be ready for the PBA season,” he added. “So as much as I would’ve loved to be there with the guys, I had to focus on my therapy and getting ready for the long PBA season.”
But Alapag has never ceased supporting the national team in his own way.
“I’m at home, screaming at the TV, cheering for them,” he said.
“They’ve been doing great,” he said. “I think that opening-day loss was a wake-up call for all of them, understanding that every night, you’re going to face a country’s best effort. And I think they’ve continually gotten better after that first game.”
Alapag believes Gilas is in a “great position” to finally make a comeback in the Olympics after a four-decade absence.
“All you can ask for is an opportunity,” he said. “Those guys will get that opportunity if they care of business tonight against Japan.”
“Once you’re there, you’re forty minutes away from bringing the country back to the Olympics for the first time in a long time.”