MANILA, Philippines -- Playing for the first time since the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup, James Yap had to shake off nerves when he made his return to the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.
Yap signed a one-conference deal with Rain or Shine ahead of the 2022-23 Governors' Cup, marking his return to the squad since being elected a councilor in San Juan City.
"Feeling ko, rookie ako," Yap said of his experience after the Elasto Painters dropped a 105-87 result to the Meralco Bolts on Sunday night at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
"'Yung feeling na na-feel ko before, nung 2004: kinakabahan. Di ko alam kung kaya," he admitted. "I'm happy na nawelcome ako ng maayos ng fans, so thank you sa kanila at syempre kay Coach Yeng [Guiao], binigyan n'ya ako ng chance uli na makapag laro ng basketball."
Yap did not show any sign of nerves against the Bolts. He entered the game at the 6:41 mark of the second quarter, and made an immediate impact by completing an and-1 with 4:11 to play.
He would finish with 12 points in the second period, nailing a three-pointer at the buzzer to force a 54-all tie at the halftime break. Unfortunately for the Elasto Painters, their offense was shut down in the second half: Meralco pulled away in the third period and eventually led by as much as 21 points in the contest.
"Hindi ko ine-expect," Yap said of his second quarter explosion. "Basta ang akin, once ipasok ako, ready ako. Nasa sideline ako, talagang kinuha ko na yung mga gadgets na pampainit para ma warm up eh."
"Alam ko naman ang pasok ni coach Yeng, every last seven or eight minutes ng second quarter so alam ko na kailan ako magpapainit ng aking mga legs. So OK naman," he added. "At least happy ako na yung pinaghirapan ko nadala ko sa game na to: yung lahat ng shooting, plyo, extra work."
Yap said he trained non-stop for three weeks in order to prepare for the Governors' Cup, while also doing extra workouts to catch up on his conditioning.
He was happy that all the effort translated in the contest against Meralco while also avoiding any injuries. However, he lamented the result, as the Elasto Painters couldn't maintain their momentum after the first half.
"Medyo 'di maganda kinalabasan. First game, it's normal, lahat excited, out of control minsan," said Yap. "But I'm sure hetong first game na to merong natutunan kami as a team. Kasi 20 points, masyadong malaki."
"I'm sure bounce back kami next game," he added.
Rain or Shine will try to bounce back on Friday against the TNT Tropang GIGA.
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