Meralco Bolts hero Jai Reyes makes KIA pay for dispersal draft snub
Bolts guard Jai Reyes scored a career-high 16 points against KIA. Jerome Ascano

IT has been close to five years ago since Jai Reyes joined the PBA as Powerade's 18th pick overall in the rookie draft.

Yet Reyes has played in only a total of 50 games since 2010, with career averages of just 2.3 points, 0.9 assist and 0.8 rebound in a career spent in the fringes of team lineups - not knowing where the next contract will come from.

On Friday night, Reyes showed he belongs in the pro league.

Getting the chance to play only because playmaker Mike Cortez was a late scratch with a swollen right knee, Reyes fired a career-high 16 points, grabbed four rebounds and dished off four assists to spark Meralco to a come-from-behind 90-80 win over KIA Motors.

[See Jai Reyes the unlikely hero as Meralco wakes up in time to turn back KIA]

The former Ateneo playmaker won Best Player of the Game honors for the effort, although he said an award was farthest from his mind on a night when he was merely trying to step up in Cortez's absence.

“Given na 'yun sa lahat ng players, when you know yung ka-posisyon mo ahead sa iyo injured, so you need to step up,” said Reyes, who was activated by Meralco only last Monday.

Reyes said it wasn't difficult easing into Meralco's main rotation considering he has played for a long time under coach Norman Black, the two having won championships together at Ateneo.

“Pati din naman sa Talk ‘N Text magksama kami ni coach, pero iba na sistem niya. Siguro, mas madali lang kasi kilala ko na siya, saka alam ko na kung ano gusto niya,” Reyes said.

Reyes said Friday’s game also was a perfect time for him to prove to KIA that they made a big mistake in not signing him during the offseason after picking him up from the dispersal draft.

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“Sila (KIA) ang nag-draft sa akin sa dispersal. Hindi lang ako na-sign-up, so I’m kinda trying to prove to them na kaya ko rin naman maglaro,” he said.

While Cortez and Fil-Am big guard Jared Dillinger are expected to be fit enough to play in the Bolts’ next game, Reyes said he’ll be ready when Black calls his number again.

“I’m a player. My role is to be ready when my number is called upon, pero basta manalo na kami, masaya na ako,” he said.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @richava