If there’s one particular individual who’s thrilled to see veteran gunner James Yap regain his deadly form of old, it’s no other than Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia.
“It’s nice to see James Yap back,” admitted the Painters mentor on Friday night after the 6-foot-3 sharpshooter torched the NLEX Warriors with 26 points—his highest point total in over three seasons—in the course of their 113-105 victory at the start of their title-retention bid in the 2017 PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
Traded to Star in exchange for younger guard Paul Lee in the off-season, Yap struggled to get consistent minutes in the Philippine Cup since Garcia felt the former two-time league MVP was still recovering from an arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, leading to some quarters questioning his trust on one of the team’s newest members.
But the Escalante, Negros Occidental native, now 35, slowly but surely earned Garcia’s trust and confidence by doing extra work in practice, proving he’s on his way back to getting his usual groove.
“Basically last conference medyo may pressure not only on him but even on me on using James Yap kasi I felt last conference his knee wasn’t that good pa so when offseason medyo maganda takbo niya sa practice,” shared Garcia.
“He was working hard. He comes in early, shoots the ball tapos minsan pa-dunk-dunk pa sa practice. Parang pinapakitaan pa kami na okay na siya,” he added.
But more than Yap’s offensive firepower which he showed by draining a game-high five triples, Garcia said he’s counting on the former University of the East standout to also make his presence felt defensively.
“Well, ang hinihingi ko naman kay James in every game is for him to put effort on defense. We don’t have anybody on the team to be a liability and so far James even on the tune-up games that we’ve played he was pushing himself on defense,” he said.
“Today he did a good job. Like I said he just has to be consistent and we still have other players, we’re not looking at this team’s James Yap, but we’re also looking at other players per se.”
Still, the Elasto Painters should only be more primed to defend their crown if Yap can sustain his fiery start.
“I just hope he’s healthy, if he’s healthy then he’ll be the James Yap of old,” assured Garcia.
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