MPBL: Gayoso wants to overcome odds and turn Rizal into a solid team

Bob Guerrero on Jul 23, 2019 10:14 AM
 MPBL: Scrappy Rizal relies on teamwork and defense
“Wala kaming star. So who will I rely on? I point to all of them. I'm relying on them to make that decision on who gets the ball (in key plays),” - JV Gayoso

Rizal Xentro Malls Golden Coolers coach JV Gayoso was supposed to meet with us one afternoon in the Angono gym where his team had a weight training session.

But on his way from Biñan Laguna, where he lives, Gayoso got ensnarled in a horrendous traffic jam on C6 leading to the Barkadahan bridge. After not moving for a while, he decided to turn back home.

Gayoso instead indulged us in a lengthy phone interview, where he was candid, chatty and upbeat.


“It was a tough situation, us starting late. Whoever showed up sa tryouts, yun lang pwede kong kunin. I got the best players I could,” said the former PBA stalwart, who cobbled together a virtually brand new team just two weeks before the league began.

A commentator with the league broadcasts last year, Gayoso is trading his headset for a tactics board in the Lakan Cup. Gayoso also notes that training sessions held in far-off Ynares Center had apparently turned off some prospective players from trying out. Rizal has only two holdovers from the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Datu Cup, namely Mark Benitez and Kelvin Gregorio.

Every other player on the roster is new, after the side transitioned to new management before the start of the Lakan Cup. No one knows more than Gayoso that his roster is not the most talented in the league.

“My purpose is to develop them and with their effort, they will win,” says the coach. Gayoso insists that the only way forward for them is to stick to the team ethos. “Wala kaming star. So who will I rely on? I point to all of them. I'm relying on them to make that decision on who gets the ball (in key plays),” says the coach, who has seven championship titles as a coach in the NCAA South. “I'd rather have a good shot by a not-great player than a bad shot by a good player.”


Gayoso is also a firm believer in the power of defense. That is how his side claimed their only win of the season, 70-66, against Muntinlupa, on June 29. That day they forced the Cagers to commit 24 turnovers.

“Once you get a taste of winning because of defense, you will want to do it again and again,” says Gayoso, who credits his longevity in the PBA, where he played for 11 years, to his ability to shut down opposing players. “If you want to last longer in a league, play defense. If you want playing time, play defense. I don't get mad about missed shots. I get mad about bad defense.”

But slowly Gayoso is beginning to see the offensive qualities of his charges, who he says are “amazing as a team.” The coach highlights Achi Iñigo as a very smart point guard, and 6'6” modern big man Benitez, who is a native Rizalian. “Benitez can post up, he can shoot the three, and can make the good pass under pressure,” says Gayoso.


The other players are “slowly bringing out the talent that I didn't realize they had,” marvels the coach.

One such player is JR Raflores, a crafty wing who scored 18 against the Pasig Sta. Lucia Realtors on Monday night. The Golden Coolers were very competitive all throughout the game but their offense went cold in the last few minutes. Rizal only scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and lost the match-up 78-72. The setback brings their slate to 1-4.

The coach believes that many of the players' issues are mental. “A lot of my players were second and third stringers in other teams. Kailangan kong i-erase sa ulo nila na second or third string sila.”

There is one player Gayoso wishes he could rope in. Watching from the Blue Eagle Gym gallery in their loss to Davao Occidental last July 16 was a 6'1” athlete, blessed with amazing speed and terrific footwork. He's pretty good on defense as well. It was none other than the coach's son, Jarvey Gayoso, Ateneo's football phenom and serial scorer for Philippine youth football national teams, plus one goal as a full Azkal.

“Oh, I'd definitely take Jarvey,” says the dad. “Hirap si Thirdy (Ravena) sa kanya noon. Lahat ng nilaro niya, MVP siya,” continues Gayoso Sr. The coach says Jarvey, who dabbled in hoops when he was younger, would kill it on fast breaks with his quickness. Plus Gayoso the Younger understands the pass-and-move system his father is implementing with Rizal, since it's common in football.

Unfortunately for JV, it's impossible for Jarvey to suit up for Xentro Malls. Not only is he studying in Ateneo but he is also preparing for the SEA Games, where he hopes to lead the U23 national team to its first-ever men's football medal. For now Jarvey will content himself with the role of chief cheerleader.

Gayoso is looking forward to their first home game, scheduled for August 6 against Bacoor in the Ynares Center. In their entire franchise history, Rizal has never won at home in the MPBL. It could be a tough slog for Gayoso and Rizal, but he remains optimistic. He might have u-turned on our interview that day because of traffic, but in the MPBL Lakan Cup, there is no turning back for the Golden Coolers. This team is all-in.

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