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PBA: Welcome home, James

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Rain or Shine opens arms to returning son.

While being traded to another team is part and parcel of a basketball player’s life, James Yap still felt shocked that the Star Hotshots shipped him to Rain or Shine for Paul Lee in a blockbuster deal last week.

“Sobrang nagulat ako, syempre nalungkot,” said Yap as he finally opened up on his feelings following his first practice session with the Elasto Painters yesterday at the North East Green Hills gym in San Juan City.

“Kala ko talaga doon (Star) na ako magre-retire e. Masakit din naman kasi yung nangyari kasi 12 years. Hindi ko kasi in-expect na mangyayari sa akin e, kasi nga ang tagal ko na sa team.”

“Pero ok lang din, professional tayo, alam nating pwedeng mangyari yung mga ganung bagay kahit kanino,” added Yap.

The onetime University of the East Red Warrior played 12 seasons with the franchise, as he was the team’s second overall pick during the 2004 Rookie Draft behind top pick Rich Alvarez.

Yap helped the team win several championships, including a Grand Slam feat in 2014 under coach Tim Cone.

Yap was named the league’s MVP in 2006 and 2010, and was likewise chosen the Finals MVP four times by the PBA Press Corps aside form being selected MVP in the 2012 All-Star.

Through 12 seasons, Yap, 34, averaged nearly 16 points per game together with 4.12 rebounds and 1.54 assists. In the previous season of Star, Yap struggled a bit under then coach Jason Webb with 11.62 points – a career low for the man fans call ‘Big Game James’.

“Thankful naman din ako sa Purefoods kasi inalagaan talaga nila ako sa loob ng 12 years. Kung ano man ang meron ako, dahil sa kanila, sa San Miguel Corporation kaya ako andito ngayon,” said Yap.

In his first practice session with ROS, which is now under Caloy Garcia after coach Yeng Guiao opted to join NLEX, Yap said that he thought he was dreaming at not being in the practice facility of Star, which holds its training at the nearby Ronac gymnasium also in San Juan City.

“Nakaka-panibago lang din,” said Yap.

Despite his new environment, Yap said he feels at home with Rain or Shine, an organization where he played for when he was still an amateur in the now-defunct PBL with Welcoat Paints.

Yap said adjusting to his new team will not be an issue since he feels at home already with the ROS family, especially with the owners Raymund Yu and Terry Que, as well as former teammate Beau Belga, who signed a maximum three-year deal approximately worth R15 million.

“Andito naman si Beau, also si Ronnie Matias. Also si Gabe (Norwood) naging teammates kami sa national team. Sina Jeff (Chan) and Jericho (Cruz) kababayan ko din naman,” said Yap, who is from Escalante, Negros Occidental.

Following the trade, Yap said that one person that gave him encouragement is wife Michela Cazzola.

“Sabi niya sa akin, ‘that’s alright, it’s a new environment and it’s going to be an exciting experience’, so very supportive siya sa akin,” said Yap, adding that he will give his best when ROS starts its campaign next season.

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