If there’s one glue guy that has withstood the test of time for TNT KaTropa, it has got to be Jayson Castro. But what sets him apart from other glue guys in the league is that he actually has what it takes to also be in the MVP conversation. Even at the ripe old age of 33.
One may argue that guys like Harvey Carey and Ryan Reyes are basically the kinds of guys that keep a team like TNT together. You may even throw in names like Kelly Williams or Jay Washington into the conversation. But it’s simply too difficult to replace a player like Castro.
Now entering his 12th year with the original team that drafted him 3rd overall back in the 2008 PBA draft, Castro has been through both the highs and lows of this franchise. From the constant Finals appearances under Coach Chot Reyes and the tutelage of Jimmy Alapag, to two short-lived Norman Black years, and to the one-year stint of Jong Uichico – where he won his last title way back in 2015.
They almost ended that drought last year, entering the Finals in the Commissioner’s Cup only to surrender to the dominant San Miguel Beermen. Mainly because of his constant rival for the MVP award, June Mar Fajardo.
But this year, the big fella’s out. So who better to take his place as the best player in the league other than the Blur?
Unlike other guards in the league who have had to change their game and adapt to the shuffling of players every season, Castro remains as formidable as ever. With the Blur’s great eye for playmaking, improved shooting stroke, and ever-reliable burst of speed – which a lot of guards his age lose – he showed everyone last year that he can still sit on that throne if he wants to. Winning the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup Best Player of the Conference was more than proof of that.
It’s mind-boggling how he still has those same legs under him despite playing deep into the playoffs almost every conference and the toll his Gilas stints in the past ten years have given him. The fact that he can still keep up, and sometimes take down, young bloods such as Kiefer Ravena and CJ Perez after 11 grueling seasons is something to admire already. But that isn’t enough for Castro.
If there’s one thing he’s shown over the years, it’s that no one should ever count out his heart. Now, with the league’s reigning MVP out for the whole of 2020, Expect Castro to showcase his full repertoire of moves this upcoming season.
Looking closely at the KaTropa, their team is still built mostly around his talents and tendencies. With the exception of Bobby Ray Parks Jr. who just might dominate with the ball just like the way Castro does, everyone else is set to complement the Blur in his quest to end TNT’s five-year title drought.
He still has a revamped front court to lean on with Poy Erram in the fold. Erram joins old reliables like Troy Rosario and Kelly Williams, who can produce when called upon. But it’s gotta be TNT’s guards that stand to benefit the most from having Castro by their side. Simon Enciso can be his tag team partner with both him and Castro sporting playmaking skills and streaky shooting. While RR Pogoy remains one of the most versatile two-way wings that’s still on the rise.
Beyond that, it’s also exciting to see how Castro will serve as the mentor to rookies Kib Montalbo and Val Chuaca. The two young guards could not ask for a better teacher in the pros than someone like the Blur. If Jayson imparts his smarts, grit, and professionalism on Montalbo and Chauca, expect the kids to make an immediate impact next season.
With the San Miguel Beermen currently missing key players, it’s now a wide-open race for the Philippine Cup title. It’s the right time for TNT to swoop in and recapture what was once considered their title to lose. If Castro stays healthy in this age-34 season while averaging his usual numbers, the KaTropa are definitely in the championship convo for each of the three conferences.
If Castro does lead his team to multiple titles this year, then there’s no question who the best player in the league is. Castro will finally reclaim the title that was once his.