Winning for the TNT Tropang Giga has more often than not come through Jayson Castro.
Castro, who has won seven PBA championships with the Tropang Giga, has contributed to all those titles in some way, shape, or form. From being a wide-eyed rookie during the early portion of TNT’s title runs and the best player on a championship squad to taking on a bench role with the emergence of Tropang Giga’s younger talent, the two-time PBA Finals MVP has done whatever his team needed him to do in order to succeed.
Majority of the scoring production over the past few seasons has come from the likes of Mikey Williams and RR Pogoy, but when the stakes are higher and the pressure rises, Castro still finds the ball in his hands.
Castro’s game-winning 3-pointer gave TNT a 2-1 series lead in their 2022 Honda PBA Philippines semifinal against the Magnolia Chicken Timplados Hotshots and atoned for Williams’ point-blank miss. While Williams’ layup would have given the Tropang Giga a four-point lead with a minute left in the game, in the end, Castro’s shot and the win are all that mattered.
Momentous would be the apt word to describe Castro’s season thus far, considering how he has shown up when TNT needed him the most. With Williams missing five games as he renegotiated his contract with the Tropang Giga, Castro stepped up by averaging 12.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 4.4 assists in 25.7 minutes per game, slightly higher than his full per-game 2022 PBA Philippine Cup averages of 11.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and a steal in 26.7 minutes of play. Coming off the bench at the start, TNT head coach Chot Reyes understood that Castro would be better off starting in the meantime, with seven-time PBA All-Star joining the starters leading to a win over the Converge FiberXers and a close loss to sister team NLEX Road Warriors.
The Blur doesn’t greatly depend on his speed as he had done so in the past, as Castro uses his smarts and timing to get past more athletic yet inexperienced defenders. The five-time PBA Best Player of the Conference has also thrived off the space that comes when playing with a loaded roster and who can blame him? At least he makes the most out of his chances and converts them into championships.
With Williams in the fold, Castro continues to take on the role of sustaining the effort even as the personnel changes over the course of the game. The 36-year old need not take on the scoring load all to himself, but he can still create for others especially with how defenses still treat him. When it’s closing time though, Castro is more often than not on the floor helping tip the scales in the Tropang Giga’s favor.
It wouldn’t be surprising if the All-Filipino semifinal series with the Hotshots goes the distance and crucial for Castro and the rest of TNT will be to manage their health. Injuries have been a thorn on the Tropang Giga’s side at times in the past and they wouldn’t want it to derail their bid to go for back-to-back Philippine Cup titles. Despite the relatively clean bill of health in this conference, the five-time PBA Mythical First Team selection had surgery two years ago to take care of a knee injury he suffered in the 2020 Philippine Cup, while he hurt his shoulder earlier in year during the 2021 PBA Governors’ Cup. The lessened minutes have certainly been great for Castro’s health but it doesn’t help to be extra cautious with a championship on the line.
Pivotal times call for pivotal players, and Jayson Castro has been that for the TNT Tropang Giga even as he is approaching the twilight of his career. Virtuoso performances from Castro may be few and far between considering the younger firepower the Tropang Giga has, but when one of the PBA’s 40 Greatest Players gets it going, best believe that winning time is upon TNT.