Jayson Castro embraces role as Gilas' top dog in crunchtime

MANILA, Philippines – Father Time creeping up on Jayson Castro doesn't mean he has lost the clutch gene. 

Castro, at 31, is not as fast as the man who nabbed the Best Point Guard in Asia title a few years ago but on Sunday night, February 25, he proved why he was always a welcome addition to Gilas Pilipinas.

"The Blur" buried a floater within the last 15 seconds that doused cold water on a fiery Japan fightback as the Philippines eked out an 89-84 triumph before a mammoth crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Japan, which trailed by 14 points midway the 4th period, used a 13-1 run to cut its deficit to just two points, 84-86, before Castro buried a bank shot over Ira Brown with 10.6 seconds remaining. 

The clutch Castrothat won it for @OfficialSBPinc #FIBAWC #ThisIsMyHouse https://t.co/eod3IQWyfT https://t.co/d2r7uQ6gh7 pic.twitter.com/tN8rAbZ4Nn — FIBA World Cup (@FIBAWC) February 25, 2018

Castro said he has embraced his role as Gilas' closer. 

"Parang as one of the veterans sa team, 'yung mga possession na ganun, parang kailangan ko mag step up. So 'yun, nafeel ko naman na may advantage ako then 'yun, may wide open floater," said Castro. 

(As one of the team's veterans, I need to step up in possessions like that. I felt that I had an advantage and I made the wide open floater.)

The TNT KaTropa star missed Gilas' 68-84 loss to Australia last February 22 after twisting his ankle two weeks ago and admitted he still wasn't in top shape against the Japanese. 

Although Castro, who finished with 8 points and 3 assists, did not fill up the stat sheets the way he used to, he said he just wanted to contribute in any way possible.

"Basta kung ilagay nila ako sa lineup, kung ano matutulong ko, as one of the veterans, kung 'yung leadership, para i-guide 'yung mga young guys, 'yun 'yung role ko."

(If I am included in the lineup, whatever I can do as a veteran, if it is leadership, if it is to guide the young guys, then I will accept that role.)

Castro will try to be back to his fine form when Gilas returns to action in the 3rd window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers in June. – Rappler.com

Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.