Passing of the Torch

The best point guard in Asia may have already found his successor

By Drei Christopher Villanueva

For two seasons, Terrence Romeo has stepped up to the plate as the PBA’s scoring king and reaffirmed his role this year, averaging 24.3 points per game. At the same time, Jayson Castro has been trying to prove his worth and, this season, The Blur has become more active on the offensive end. The multiple Best Player of the Conference awardee has averaged 22.5 points per game, not far behind with Romeo.

It comes as no surprise that fans are now debating which between the two players is the best point guard in the PBA today – Castro or Romeo? Romeo or Castro?

When Jimmy Alapag, the undisputed leader of TNT, decided to retire two years ago, Castro assumed his squad’s leadership mantle and became the main man at the point. While injuries have slowed Castro down somewhat for the past two years, it wasn’t without reason: His was one of the most abused bodies in the PBA, having to play extended minutes for TNT, then having to serve Gilas Pilipinas.

As early as 2012, Castro had to work in between, serving the national team and playing as the premier point guard for the Ka Tropa. He was a member of the 2013 Gilas Pilipinas squad that placed runner-up to Iran in the FIBA Asia Championship. By placing second to Iran, the Philippines was able to qualify for the World Championship for the first time in 40 years.

Castro would continue to train for Gilas Pilipinas, joining them in the European training in time for the 2014 World Cup while playing a huge role in TNT’s playoff campaigns. He would lead the Tropang Texters to a championship in the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters before he would be called up to play by Gilas Pilipinas in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in China.

Castro would play for Gilas Pilipinas for the last time in this year’s FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament last July, but as soon as his commitment with the squad ended, the 5-foot-10 guard from Philippine Christian University worked his way to get back into shape.

“Naging motivation kasi sa amin yung mga previous setbacks namin. After manalo namin ng championship last year, parang matamlay na yung mga laro namin. This year, our mindset talaga is to be on top. We also made sure na whatever happens, buo talaga kaming maglalaro,” Castro said.

Castro’s focus is very evident this conference – against Romeo and GlobalPort, he finished with 37 points, 22 of them happened in the first half.

But despite outshining his younger counterpart, Castro heaped praise on Romeo, whom he considered to be the best point guard in the PBA today.

“Siya na talaga, obvious naman.  Ang dami na niyang kayang gawin.  Sobrang laki ng inimprove niya, especially yung court vision niya. Before, mahilig siya sa coast to coast, this time, nakikita na niya yung mga teammates niya kung sino ang dapat pasahan yung mga shooters pati yung mga rumo-roll na big men. Mas mahirap na siyang bantayan ngayon. He’s beginning to mature,” added Castro.

Castro may have a strong basis to put Romeo ahead of everybody else.

In three seasons, Romeo has won individual accolades. He was a former Rookie of the Year then won the Most Improved Player plum last season, thus becoming GlobalPort’s go-to-guy. He has won other citations, including winning the Three-Point Shootout while also coming away with the MVP plum in last year’s All-Star Game.

“Motivation ko sa sarili ko, kailangang mag-improve ako more to help out my team,” added Romeo. “So I worked hard on my game, trying to find out kung saan pa ako dapat mag-improve.”

He and his backcourt mate Stanley Pringle are considered to be the most explosive backcourt combination.

Romeo became endeared to fans.

The spitfire guard, who is known for his shake and bake moves and his ability to wriggle free from his opponents, has improved immensely. Last year, he decided to trim down and played the best condition of his career while representing the national team. He played for the FIBA 3 x 3 World Tour, leading the Manila North squad to the grand finals. He joined Castro in the FIBA Asia Championship last year, forming up a deadly backcourt combination, which resulted to a runner-up finish against China.

This year, Romeo decided to bulk up. He worked on his upper body while making sure it wouldn’t hamper his speed. “Dati kasi ang payat ko,” added Romeo. “Kaya nag-weights ako, working on my upper body kasi sa international competitions kailangan talaga malakas ang katawan mo.”

In the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament just recently, Romeo got the license to take over a game from Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin. Most of the plays were designed for the former UAAP MVP from Far Eastern Univerity, proof that he’s now the future of the national team.

It was a moment Castro had been waiting for to finally leave the national team – and in good hands, with Romeo playing the lead role. It was like a passing of the torch, a mantra learned by Castro from his predecessor Jimmy Alapag, who was once the face of the Gilas squad.

The Best Point Guard in Asia has just given his blessing to Romeo, whom he considers the best in the PBA now. Romeo downplayed Castro’s observation, but being praised by the best point guard in the region would make anyone feel proud.

“Flattered ako kasi Best Point Guard in Asia yung nagsabi nun eh. Pero malayo pa talaga siya sa akin. Marami pa akong kakaining bigas,” Romeo said.

Little did Castro know, Romeo used him as an inspiration to get better.

“Saan ka pa ba gagaling kung hindi sa kanila. Kakalaro mo kina Kuya Jayson and Kuya LA (Tenorio), talagang gagaling ka,” added Romeo.

Castro and Romeo have mutual respect to one another. They like each other a lot, and even with the bond that developed between them during their time with Gilas, fans are excited to see them whenever they go up against each other on the court.

Seeing these two play, it’s like witnessing the past and the future of the PBA, and both men, Castro and Romeo, are making sure we’re all entertained.



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