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After 1-year layoff, Jai Reyes makes basketball comeback through Laguna Heroes

The "Jai-namite" looks to explode again in the MPBL. Ivan Saldajeno
By Ivan Saldajeno

BIÑAN--Once upon a time, Jai Reyes was one of the key cogs in Ateneo's title runs in 2008 and 2009, even getting Finals MVP honors in the PCCL.

However, that stellar collegiate career did not translate into a decent pro career as he found himself bouncing around the PBA, PBA D-League, ABL, and Thailand Basketball League, his last stop before taking a hiatus last year.

But lo and behold, the former King Eagle is back in club basketball play, suiting up for expansion club Laguna in the upcoming MPBL Datu Cup.

All it took for the now 31-year-old point guard was a glance at some of the MPBL games during the previous tournament, the Rajah Cup, for Reyes to give basketball another try.

"Noong nakita ko yung crowd ng MPBL, I was reminded of the UAAP days--yung support talaga and the sense of belonging ng fans sa team nila. Sabi ko, 'Ang sarap ma-experience uli nito,'" Reyes told Dugout Philippines on Wednesday night.

The way he was signed on became straightforward from there.

"I decided to contact si Coach Alex [Angeles] kung pwede nga akong mag-try-out sa Laguna, and then we're here right now," Reyes continued.

In a preseason match at the Alonte Sports Arena, Reyes showed that he still has something in his sleeves.

"Jai-namite", as he was tagged during his college days due to his tendency to explode once he gets his three-point game going, drained three huge triples in the fourth quarter that helped the Heroes finish off the Parañaque Patriots, 76-68.

And according to him, the one-year rest was worth it.

"Actually, the one-year layoff, nakatulong nang malaki sa akin. I was able to see the things that I was taking for granted when I was playing for the PBA and in international leagues," Reyes continued. "I was able to step back and reassess myself and makita talaga the things I need to work on."

He then hopes, "Hopefully, makabalik ako on my previous form and even greater than that."

Although the league is still in its preseason phase as the regular season will not start until June 12, Reyes believes he has found a new home in the MPBL.

"Ito talaga ang totoong liga ng Filipino. Di tayo sumusuporta sa corporate brands or everything. Sinusuportahan natin kung saan tayo nakatira. This is very similar to the NBA, and ang saya talaga," he continued. "This is where I want to play."

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno