MANILA, Philippines – Despite already being eliminated in the 2019-20 Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan Season, Nueva Ecija team captain and chief of basketball operations Jai Reyes still goes all out every game.
Reyes, who joined the team late September 2019, is currently juggling two jobs as the team's primary point guard as well as chief of basketball operations.
Since taking over the managerial job, Reyes has acquired James Martinez from Imus-Luxxe Slim, RR De Leon from Muntinlupa-Angelis Resort, and Tonino Gonzaga from Quezon City-WEMSAP.
As a player, he was the rock of the team, scoring in double-digits in 10 of his 13 games with Nueva Ecija.
Reyes was explosive on Wednesday against Bulacan, posting 20 points on an efficient 6-of-13 shooting from the field and a perfect 7-of-7 night from the line. He also dished out an MPBL career-high of 15 assists against just two errors.
More importantly, the Rice Vanguards stunned the Kuyas, 85-78, at the San Andres Sports Complex in Manila.
Reyes dedicated their victory to all Nueva Ecijanos who always trooped to the venues, wherever it may be.
"Matagal na namin pinaghihirapan ito," said the 5-foot-7 floor general. "Hindi dahil sa nagta-try pa kami humabol sa playoffs, kung hindi para sa Nueva Ecija fans talaga ito. Binabyahe nila papunta dito makanood lang kahit na ang layo nila dito sa venue."
When the game was on the line, that was when "Jainamite" took matters into his own hands.
Nueva Ecija was up by just a point, 72-71, when Reyes proceeded to score their next 10 points – a three-point play, a floater, and five free throws – for a nine-point lead with 2:09 left to play, 82-73.
"Nandoon na 'yung chance to win eh. Madalas nasa akin 'yung bola so I took over. Pero mas importante, salamat sa teammates ko kasi hindi naman ako makakalibre kung hindi nila nagagawa 'yung plays," he said.
The 32-year-old ex-pro, despite having a big game in scoring, emphasized that playmaking is his top priority, ending up with 15 assists, his first double-digit outing in the category this season.
"Top priority pa rin ang playmaking. Basta maipasa ko lang ang bola sa teammates ko, kahit hindi ma-count as assist, malaking bagay 'yun na napapasaya mo 'yung teammates mo as a point guard," Reyes said.
When asked about Reyes' performance, assistant coach Carlo Tan only has good things and praise to say about his veteran.
"Jai is a really crafty point guard that's why he gets the job done everytime. He did a terrific job today," said Tan, who took the helm since head coach Charles Tiu and lead assistant TY Tang are in the Middle East for Mighty Sports' tournament in the 2020 Dubai International Basketball Championship.
In other games, Davao Occidental-Cocolife vented its ire against Parañaque-Yabo Sports, 78-70, while Makati-Super Crunch crushed Caloocan-Victory Liner by a whopping 42 points, 119-77.
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