This has got to be one of those individual player match-ups in the PBA Finals that, while unlikely given the paths they took in their respective careers, is meant to happen anyway.
San Miguel point guard Chris Ross and TNT playmaker Jayson Castro will engage in a showdown that will take centerstage starting on Wednesday in the Commissioner’s Cup Finals.
While taking different paths to stardom, both floor generals have worked their way to the top of the league, and it is only fitting that they are now going to battle each other in one of the many interesting storylines of the San Miguel-TNT clash.
Ross transformed himself from a role player to one of the integral pieces of the current super team in the PBA. His calling card has always been his tenacity on the floor. He is a pass-first point guard who possesses blitzing speed and an unmatched adrenaline for success. While still trying to look for his niche in the league, those traits kept Ross going as he looked to breach obstacles.
San Miguel eventually took him under their wings, and when Leo Austria arrived, he only helped put Ross in a position to be successful. Ross paired his physical strengths with a deeper understanding of the game, resulting to him now doing the primary quarterbacking chores of a stacked Beermen squad. Arguably, the 32-year-old is also now one of the best two-way guards in the league.
Castro, on the other hand, was destined for greatness right from his early days as a skinny point guard in the amateur ranks. He was his college’s star guard; as an amateur, he represented the Philippines internationally, and even played as an import for foreign teams.
TNT drafted him third overall back in 2008, and he had the luxury of learning from one of the greatest point guards in league history in Jimmy Alapag. From just a back-up to Alapag, to his sidekick, and eventually becoming the heart and soul of the TNT franchise and succeeding Alapag when he retired, Castro has blossomed into a quintessential winner.
More than the incredible things he does on the floor, Castro’s attitude has also given him an edge. He never settles. He always seeks to learn more about the game. He has added wrinkles to his game throughout the years and he continues to try new things.
And just how evenly-matched are the two?
Ross is enjoying a career-best conference so far, putting up 12 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 7.5 APG, and 2.5 SPG while shooting 52.7 percent overall and even 40 percent from three-point area. He has been putting up career-best effective field goal percentage (eFG) and PER numbers, and is likely a contender for best player of the conference.
Castro is norming 15.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 6.9 APG. That may look a bit less than what he normally puts up, but don’t be fooled, because Castro is enjoying the best supporting cast ever in his tenure as a Ka-Tropa post-Alapag era. Kelly Williams is playing at a high-level again. Ranidel de Ocampo and Troy Rosario do damage from inside and out. Their wings got an upgrade with Anthony Semerad, and Castro has finally gotten a quality guard in RR Garcia whom he can play alongside for stretches. This TNT line-up could only result to a more dangerous Castro.
The individual numbers and accolades speak a lot for both men. They’re both proven winners. They’re both on the top of their respective games.
It’s amazing how they both have nothing left to prove, and yet when the series unfolds, it’s a breath of fresh air for both. When Game 1 tips off and Ross and Castro step on the hardwood pitted against each other and their arms locked up as they’re ready to slug it out, neither one of them is going to surrender an inch.
They haven’t been in this situation before. We never thought this would happen in the PBA Finals. They probably never expected it too. But it has arrived. Ross versus Castro. San Miguel versus TNT. When two of the best collide, you might as well want to hang on to your seats, as this is about to be one heck of a duel.