08 February 2015

Meralco Gives Jai Reyes a Chance

Jai Reyes
Jai Reyes is a welcome addition to the Meralco Bolts roster after defense-minded Anjo Caram and rookie Philip Morrison failed to produce significant offensive numbers for the team.

The 5-foot-9 Reyes used to play behind Gilas Pilipinas mainstays Jayson Castro and Jimmy Alapag in a crowded Talk ’N Text backcourt in 2013. However, this did not dampen his spirit as the former PCCL Finals MVP was determined then to prove that he can compete head on with the PBA’s established guards.

Reyes was also a vital cog in Ateneo’s two UAAP championships in 2008 and 2009 before joining the ABL (Asean Basketball League). He played for the Bangkok Cobras in 2011, where he was coached by Kobe Bryant’s father Joe 'Jellybean' Bryant, and the Saigon Heat.

After being selected by Kia Motors in July 2014’s dispersal draft, the former UAAP Rookie of the Year says he is excited to be a part of the franchise’s first chapter as it heads towards its inaugural season.

"Although there’s no final lineup yet you can see the final direction the team wants to head towards," Reyes said then.

"The thing is there are no real superstars on the team so we have to play together, especially on defense. We’re not going to outgun or outscore any of these teams in the PBA right now so we have to play as a team if we want to be competitive this coming season."

Unfortunately, the 27-year old pointguard did not make the cut and had to wait several months for a chance to prove to the Kia management that they made a very big mistake.

Reyes averaged just 1.6 points a game in 5.6 minutes with the Texters after he joined the PBA as Powerade's 18th pick overall in the rookie draft five years ago. He has played in only a total of 50 games since 2010, with career averages of just 2.3 points, 0.9 assist and 0.8 rebound in a career spent in the fringes of team lineups – no knowing where the next contract will come from.

However on 30 January , Reyes showed he belongs in the pro league. Getting the chance to play only because playmaker Mike Cortez was a late scratch with a swollen right knee, Reyes fired a career-high 16 points, grabbed four rebounds and dished off four assists to spark Meralco to a come-from-behind 90-80 win over KIA Carnival.

Reyes won Best Player of the Game honors for the effort, although he said an award was farthest from his mind on a night when he was merely trying to step up in Cortez's absence.

"Given na 'yun sa lahat ng players, when you know yung ka-posisyon mo ahead sa iyo injured, so you need to step up," said Reyes.

Reyes said it wasn't difficult easing into Meralco's main rotation considering he has played for a long time under coach Norman Black, the two having won championships together at Ateneo.

Cortez will still be the primary point guard for the Bolts. Simon Atkins may share that role depending on situational plays, while Jared Dillinger could be used to create mismatches. However, once they remain cold, expect Reyes to again step up.

"I’m a player. My role is to be ready when my number is called upon, pero basta manalo na kami, masaya na ako," he said.

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