NINO Canaleta dribbled to his left, faked his defender, then knocked down a contested three-pointer from the top of the key to give Mahindra the lead late against Barako Bull on Friday at Green Meadows gym.
It was merely a tune-up game that ended in a draw at 87-all, but the veteran forward showed the Enforcers they can count on him to bail them out in crucial moments.
“Pag napunta tayo sa sitwasyon na 'yun, syempre yung confidence nandun,” Canaleta said in a chat with Spin.ph “Tsaka dun mo ma-ge-gain yung tiwala sa’yo nung team.”
“Pag nasa tamang pagkakataon lang,” added the 10-year PBA veteran, who was acquired in an offseason three-team trade that forced the Enforcers to give up this rookie draft’s No. 2 pick Troy Rosario.
Canaleta admitted he was surprised to be traded by NLEX, but is slowly adapting to the system of coach Chito Victolero.
“Medyo madali na 'yung adjustment,” said the 33-year-old cager, who scored 10 points against the Energy. “Hindi katulad nung una, na-shock ako, parang biglaan. Tapos katagalan, okay naman.”
“Gusto ko 'yung system ni coach Chito tapos yung mga teammates ko, very hardworking at makikita mo sa practice, talagang halos lahat, nag-e-extra work yang mga yan,” he added. “Para talagang may gustong patunayan.”
A third or at best a second option at NLEX, where he averaged just 8.1 points — his first sub-double-digit scoring norm in three years — and 3.3 boards in 20.1 minutes last season, the 6-foot-4 Canaleta is thrust back into the spotlight as he provides leadership to the sophomore squad.
“We expect him to lead this team,” Enforcers coach Chito Victolero said. “Basta consistent lang siya sa production niya, okay kami ‘dun.”
But Canaleta is shying away from the spotlight that he feels should only fall on playing-coach Manny Pacquiao.
“Dito sa team namin, si boss Manny lang ang star namin,” he said with a smile. “Lahat talaga may participation. Walang spotlight, walang go-to guy. Yun nga kagandahan sa team na ‘to: maganda yung flow ng bola, umiikot, kahit sino pwede mabigyan ng chance.”
“Ako naman, laro lang ako, bigyan lang ng pagkakataon,” he added. “Hindi ko hinahangad na maging star player. basta every game, makapag-contribute lang ng maganda.”