Why is Alapag coming out of retirement?
MANILA, Philippines — For Jimmy Alapag, the decision to come out of retirement was a hard and easy one at the same time.
But he pictured a game night where he was on the court once again. This time his son and daughter were eagerly watching his every move, cheering him on from right behind the players' bench. And at that, the 37-year-old was ready to lace up his sneakers again.
"I knew from the day that I retired, I knew I was going to miss it. It just so happened that now with Meralco, it's a new challenge, it's a new opportunity," Alapag said, explaining the reason he chose to reopen the door to his illustrious PBA career.
"Not only did I miss the game but there's a little added motivation. I have my two kids. My son is a big fan of the game and coming back in and having the opportunity to have him at the games to see his dad play, I want to make sure I'm ready.”
“I don't want my son or my daughter coming to the games saying, 'hey daddy you don't look too good out there!’” he added. "So while I have time, I'm going to do what I've done my entire career. Get my body, get my mind right for the upcoming season."
'I knew from the day that I retired, I knew I was going to miss it.' – Jimmy Alapag
The 5-foot-7 point guard hung up his jersey this past January after his only team Talk ’N Text failed to get past the semifinals. But he has since decided to make a comeback – only this time he will wear an orange jersey.
Alapag was part of a 3-team deal involving Blackwater and sister teams Talk ’N Text and Meralco. Blackwater acquired Alapag from Talk ’N Text in exchange for Larry Rodriguez, then Alapag was shipped to Meralco for Mike Cortez and James Ryan Sena.
Alapag reunites with former Texters coach Norman Black and will now try to help fellow MVP-owned Bolts to reach the Finals for the first time.
It’s the challenge of turning a contender out of a franchise toiling long enough in the middle of the pack that drew Alapag back. (READ: The Mighty Captain: Jimmy Alapag makes his last dance count)
“It was missing the game and Meralco kind of creating an opportunity and a challenge because Meralco's been in the league for a while, and they haven't been to the finals yet. So it's a big challenge. They got a lot of talent here,” he explained.
"There's just added motivation knowing that my son and my daughter will be in the crowd watching me play and doing what I can to help Meralco win some basketball games.”
Alapag said it took him close to two months to arrive at a decision, with Black holding the door ajar for him. But it helped that he came back to Gilas Pilipinas as a practice player, with the strong possibility of going on one more tour of duty for flag and country at this year’s FIBA Asia Championship.
“I thought about it a little bit especially with what was happening with Gilas. I think that started the motor a little bit,” he said.
The 2011 PBA MVP whose number 3 jersey was retired by Talk ’N Text this year shared how he discussed his return with his family during a brief trip home to the United States.
“They were really supportive,” said the 6-time PBA champion and 2003 Rookie of the Year. "Having that all together and at the same time missing the game, and again I just visualize my son and my daughter there watching the games, that means the world to me.”
Alapag, long known to be gracious to fans, also understands the mixed reactions to his return.
“That's something that I expected. When you spend your entire career with the franchise, we were blessed to have a lot of success. It doesn't change that,” he shared his thoughts on the feedback he’s received so far.
"A piece of my heart will always be Talk 'N Text. That's just the way it's going to be. The fans there, I'll always love the fans for everything they did for myself and the team in the last 12 years.
"There will always be some sort of connection. But it's a new opportunity and a new challenge [with Meralco]. And I'm always up for a challenge."
Meralco building block
Alapag will be joining a Meralco team that has at best seen a semifinals appearance since joining the league in 2010. But due to a shallow talent pool compared to more established teams, the Bolts always fell short.
'A piece of my heart will always be Talk 'N Text. That's just the way it's going to be.' – Jimmy Alapag
The goal is to win a title eventually, but for Black, Alapag’s entry does not make the Bolts instant contenders.
“I’m not naive I know he’s getting a little bit older but I think he still has a lot left to give,” he said. “We think he’s going to add a lot to our team. He’s going to bring not just talent, but I think he’ll also bring a lot of experience and leadership. He’s another building block for us to become more competitive in the PBA.”
Black said the team is looking to "add pieces to go along” with Alapag, a member of the PBA’s 40 Greatest Players, especially through this year’s Rookie Draft on Sunday, August 23.
"We still want to get bigger,” said Black of their draft goal. The Bolts have the 4th and 7th overall picks.
"There are a lot of big guys running in the PBA right now and last year we had a difficult time matching up so we want to get bigger and get younger."
Alapag, on the other hand, is focused on getting back into game shape by opening day on October 18, making sure that when he takes the court again, shades of his old Mighty Mouse self will resurface.
"There's a lot of work to be done between now and October 18. I don't know what'll happen here (Gilas),” Alapag said. “Whether I'm here putting on the Gilas jersey one more time or not, I'll have the Meralco jersey come October 18.” – Rappler.com