Wednesday, March 3, 2010

King James (Yap) Rules

I gotta admit, when I first had a conversation with Coach Ryan Gregorio about Purefoods drafting James Yap many years ago, I was a bit skeptical. Yes, James won the UAAP MVP and was the best shooter out of college, but I had my doubts about his leadership and ability to win championships. Even when he was voted best player in the UAAP, he never won the title. So when Coach Ryan told me that James is the best player in the draft, I thought he was in one of his hyperbolic raves again. I worked with him in the UAAP panel and a little in the PBA and he did have a tendency to get over excited about basketball, which I think is great.

I also remember a good friend Luigi Trillo who was coaching the Adamson Falcons at the time telling me about this kid he was hoping to recruit for the Falcons to get him over the hump. James went on to have a fruitful UAAP career but not with Adamson. His best shot at winning was in 2002, teamed up with Paul Artadi and a bunch of other solid players but eventually lost to Ateneo off a last second shot by Gec Chia.

James has proven Coach Ryan right on a number of occassions already in the course of his Purefoods career. James is hands down the most popular player in the PBA now especially since marrying Kris Aquino, one of the most popular personalities in the country with all the controversies that come with it. With winning the Finals MVP, he is no doubt the King of the PBA right now.

Last night, after getting to watch the Game 4 sweep live (for the first time in a long time), I got reminded again why Coach Ryan was right and what makes James a great player: Mainly his demeanor. A smooth operator, he doesn't get too excited or too down. He is like a well oiled machine built to play on the court and get the job done. He is the best offensive player in the PBA right now and it seems his defense is catching up as well. You can tell that although he doesn't talk much, his teammates rely on him to lead them and James embraces the responsibility. James is a player who has the fans holding their breath in anticipation whenever he has the ball. Very few have that ability.

San Miguel and Alaska were hands down the favorites to win the title. Purefoods just got on an incredible roll and couldn't be stopped with James Yap at the driver's seat. My doubts are all gone. He has the leadership and he knows how to win championships. I'm happy to be proven wrong.


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