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MANILA, Philippines - Jayson Castro has been, for the benefit of those living under a rock, the best point guard in Asia for the last few years. The Gilas Pilipinas playmaker was acknowledged as such when he was named to the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship Mythical Five.
Two years later, while playing against one of his chief rivals in Iran’s Mehdi Kamrani, “The Blur” showed that not much has changed but the calendar.
On Monday, September 28, Castro led Gilas to an 87-73 victory over the reigning FIBA Asia champions Iran, with Castro serving notice that he is still the best in these parts while putting the Philippines in any discussion for winning Asia’s most prestigious basketball championship.
Castro tallied 26 points (including two triples), two rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals versus 5 turnovers. He outdueled Kamrani, who finished with 11 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, two steals versus one turnover.
That win, the Philippines’ first against Iran at the Asian Championships since 1973 (in Manila, no less) placed head coach Tab Baldwin’s troops as favorites to top Group E.
The Philippines didn’t only beat Iran at the point position - they also had the best big man on the court as well.
The Philippines’ naturalized center Andray Blatche outscored Iranian counterpart Hamed Haddadi (who fouled out), 18-10. Both slotmen each grabbed 7 rebounds.
Even if you added Kamrani’s back-up in Sajjad Mashayekhi’s points (11) to his total, Castro still proved to be more than a handful. He shot at a high 61% from the field, a far cry from Kamrani’s poor 25% accuracy rate.
Castro shoots at a high percentage because of his ability to drive to the basket. That blinding speed allows him to raid the passing lanes as well as to get to the basket where he can create for teammates such as his two drop passes to Calvin Abueva inside the lane late in the game.
How big a factor was Castro? He scored in every quarter. And of his 4 baskets in the fourth period, 3 came from inside the lane.
In contrast, Kamrani didn't score at all in the second and third frames and contributed only one triple in the fourth period. Without Haddadi, Kamrani failed to rally his team or even provide solid playmaking.
Yet even by himself, the 5-foot-10 Castro has shown that he too can carry a team on his small shoulders.
In 2013, without an injured Marcus Douthit, the Philippines was defeated in the gold medal match of the FIBA Asia Championships, 85-71. Yet even playing without its naturalized center, the Philippines, largely through the efforts of Castro who scored 18 points, hung tough until the second half when Iran put some distance between the two teams that allowed them to stave off one rally after another.
Terrence Romeo, 23, scored 15 points in Monday's game for the Philippines. Many feel he is the future of Philippine basketball, both domestically and internationally. But at age 30, Jayson Castro is still the man at the helm.
The win over Iran is a huge victory. And with Castro playing heads up ball all tournament long, who knows how far the team will go? The Philippines next plays India tomorrow, Tuesday, September 29, and then it's off to the quarterfinals. – Rappler.com