MANILA, Philippines -- Tim Cone has coached several great point guards in his glittering PBA career, from Johnny Abarrientos to LA Tenorio.
The upcoming Southeast Asian Games will mark the first time ever that he will get to work with Jayson Castro, TNT's veteran floor general who has twice been included in the Mythical Team of the FIBA Asia Championships.
"I'm just honored that he's here. I'm just really, truly honored," Cone said Monday, after Castro joined 13 other players in Gilas Pilipinas' first practice at the Meralco Gym.
Castro opted not to play in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China earlier this month, instead giving way to younger playmakers like Robert Bolick, CJ Perez, and Kiefer Ravena. But he agreed to put on the Gilas jersey again for the SEA Games, which the country will host in November and December.
When asked how they convinced Castro to come out of retirement, Cone said: "Well, I don't think it really took any convincing. Jayson loves playing with the national team."
"I think he felt that maybe he was ... the young guns needed to come in and start taking his time, taking his place, and I think that it was kind of a realization for him watching, how much he was missed in that line-up, and the leadership," he added.
"You know, he's still Asia's best guard, so I think when he was approached again to come in and join us, I think he's willing to do it."
Cone has put together a pool of veteran players, anchored by the core of Barangay Ginebra. But he has no doubt that Castro can come in and serve as the leader of the team, the way he has done in previous versions of the national team.
For Cone, this is also a chance to finally coach Castro -- something he has never done, even during the PBA All-Star Games.
"I'm excited about coaching him, I never had a chance to coach him," he said.
Cone revealed that back in 2008, he wanted Alaska to draft Castro, who was coming off a superb collegiate career with the Philippine Christian University Dolphins in the NCAA, along with stints in the now-defunct Philippine Basketball League.
"We thought we were gonna get him No. 5, and he ended up going No. 3," said Cone.
"So, curse Chot Reyes," added Cone in jest, referring to how the former TNT coach swung a trade with San Miguel Beer that allowed them to get the No. 3 pick -- and Castro.
"But now, after all these years, maybe we can do something together. So I'm honored that he's here, just honored that he's here. I'm honored that he accepted the challenge, and he's a special player," Cone said.
Castro, for his part, is eager to learn from the winningest coach in PBA history.
"Sobrang detalyado lahat, at tsaka 'yun nga, every movement, ine-explain niya, which is sobrang helpful sa player," the 33-year-old guard said of Cone's style.
"'Yung mga ganoong coach 'di ba, parang minsan mo lang maging coach, kaya parang i-absorb mo lahat ng malalaman mo sa kanya," he added.
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