Eyebrows were raised when Racal coach Jerry Codiñera opted to start seldom-used big man Joseph Gabayni for Game 2 of the 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup.
That reaction was unsurprising. After all, the former Lyceum slotman has been on a downturn and has only averaged 1.9 points on a paltry 35-percent shooting on top of 2.2 rebounds in the 6.3 minutes he played for the Tile Masters this conference.
But there seems to be a method to Codiñera’s madness, as Gabayni trotted out his best game to date, finishing with a season-best nine points, 10 rebounds, an assist, and a block in his 24 minutes on the floor in Racal’s 100-90 victory.
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You may call him a genius, but even Codiñera was surprised with the impressive showing he had on Monday.
“After so many games, this was the only time I gave him a lot of minutes, and I’m happy that he responded well. That was big for us,” the coach said.
Gabayni said it was a short pep talk he had with Codiñera which fueled him to perform at his best in the do-or-die game.
“Coach Jerry told me that if he gets eight points and eight rebounds from me, it’s already big. But I told him that I can do more,” he said. “I did what I could to help the team. The important thing for me are the rebounds. The points are just a bonus.”
Gabayni’s stellar play allowed Racal to equalize the best-of-3 championship series and force an all-important Game 3.
And for the young center, he hopes to sustain his great run to contribute in the Tile Masters’ quest for their maiden title in the league.
“If I get the playing time, I’ll provide the hustle for us. That’s all I’m thinking. I want to do what I can to help and provide the hustle for our team,” he said. “We have nothing to lose. We hope to win the title, and the only way we can do that is if we cooperate as a team. One man can’t win us the championship so we all have to give our share.”