FINALS: Powerade Tigers 1 - 3 Talk N Text Tropang Texters
“Hey, take care of our numero uno okay?" Asi Taulava hollered as I interviewed Jvee Casio after their Gilas practice. Asi could’ve referred to Jvee’s playing position, but it’s most probably his recent draft pick. Jvee just grinned, ever so shyly, and continued answering.

One look at Jvee and you would think that he’s a bit small both vertically and horizontally to be highly touted by teams in the pros. Compared to current PBA star Asi who’s older, much bigger and much louder, Jvee is the quiet sapling of Gilas. You wouldn't hear him complain on or off the court, to the point that he doesn't mind it if you misspell his nickname as "JV." (It's spelled "Jvee," he clarifies.) He's a basketball superstar who shies away from star treatment, put simply.

Despite his limited height, Jvee Casio still makes it to the top of the PBA rookie pack.

A sports star in the making

“It was a completely different world compared sa laro sa labas. I learned a lot of things that I never knew were needed in basketball. I had to learn the basics," recalls Jvee Casio of his first ever basketball training experience. These skills included dribbling, shooting and proper form on defense.

He started playing basketball when he was around seven-years-old. It wasn’t like the Karate Kid where he had a Mr. Miyagi to teach him. It was more like “Stand By Me" where he learned the ropes with a bunch of friends. No rules, just street ball.

As a kid, Jvee attended Milo basketball clinics to further hone the “skills" he acquired from the streets. Ever since, he’s always looked up to Michael Jordan. Asked why he idolized MJ more than any other player, he quickly replied, “Kailangan pa ba i-explain?" I had to agree.

His quickness and agility indeed proved, even at such a young age, that he was a natural on the court. However, there was one setback – he wasn’t very tall. Jvee is pushing 5’10" and he plays point guard. That’s not so bad if you look at it, except if you’re playing in international leagues where the guards are over six feet and the forwards stand past seven feet. The good thing is, he never got put down by his doubters.

“You hear some things but I don’t let it get to me. Basketball is a challenge. I know I have limited physical abilities because I’m not tall, but I make up for it with my other skills," he says with a kind of assurance that height is not always might.

According to sports analyst and basketball commentator Mico Halili: "Jvee is blessed with neither height nor speed, but he's blessed with clutch outside shooting. In fact, Jvee is not just a clutch outside shooter, rather he's really an intelligent clutch scorer - an important trait for incoming rookie starting point guard."

Fast forward to 2011, way past his stints in San Beda, La Salle and the PBL. Jvee is now 25 years old and he divides his time between no less than the national team and the PBA. From a young boy playing with his friends in Parañaque, he has risen up the ranks to be the main point guard of Pilipinas Smart Gilas and top draftee of Powerade.

“God-mode" in La Salle

From the San Beda juniors, he was recruited by Coach Franz Pumaren for the De La Salle Green Archers. In 2007, La Salle redeemed themselves from a previous suspension by clinching the UAAP championship. Behind that crown were veterans Ty Tang, Cholo Villanueva and of course, Jvee. 

“Nung veteran na ko, I made a goal for myself every game and sinusubukan kong lagpasan yon. Nakuha ko rin yun kay MJ," he says.

When Jordan was still playing in the NBA, he targeted eight points per quarter. This is one of his work ethics that Jvee tries to imitate.

“Di naman ako kasing-galing ni MJ," he humbly continues.“Kaya ang goal ko noon four points per quarter. Tapos mga three or four assists. Nagawa ko naman kasi ang average ko noon 17 points per game."

Because of these statistics and the fact that nothing can go wrong when he’s in the zone, his college friends started saying that he’s the type of player who’s always on “god-mode."

In 2008, he graduated with a degree in Sports Studies. Since then, the closest La Salle would get to the crown is second place to none other than archrival Ateneo. This season, the Green Archers are still struggling to earn a Final Four slot. They lost to University of the East and almost lost to University of the Philippines, the two lowest ranked teams this year.

Happening simultaneously with the UAAP this season was the Jones Cup where Jvee played for Gilas. He was delivering monster numbers, mostly from his timely threes, and that served as consolation to La Sallians everywhere.

On Twitter, countless fans tweeted: “May dahilan pa rin para maging proud na La Sallista, si Jvee Casio!"

Asked if he thinks La Salle’s hey-day is over, Jvee says, “I think the team is still adjusting now. It’s a big challenge for the new players and the coaches."

Hesitant national sports hero

When the Gilas program started, Jvee was ripe enough to go straight to the PBA. This is why he took a lot of convincing to play for the nationals. He’s very thankful he listened to his family and friends because suiting up for the country proved to be a once in a lifetime experience. For one, he played the NBA All-Stars during their Manila visit. The Kobe Bryant-led selection won but the Nationals gave them a stiff challenge notably on a Jvee-led 4th quarter run.

“I know they weren’t in such great shape. They had no system. But it’s still uplifting for our confidence to have played with them. Mga idol namin yun eh," he beams.

He also got to go up against big teams in Asia, literally and figuratively. They even beat defending champion Iran in the Jones Cup. But with the draft of seven of its players, a lot of people are concerned whether Gilas will still be as formidable once it competes in Wuhan.

“The program will still continue, hopefully in unity with the PBA and SBP. During my stay in Gilas, I’ve seen that we really have a good chance of making a mark in the international scene," Jvee says.

“Numero uno"

“It didn’t sink in before the draft that people were saying I could get the top spot. Even now, it hasn’t sunk it. All my life, I never expected that I could get drafted in the top ten, number one pa," he admits.

Jvee says the draftees this year were all good. Everybody impressed him, including his supposed contender Paul Lee. Lee was everybody’s number one pick prediction before Jvee filed for the draft.

“I really don’t know personally why Powerade picked me over Paul Lee. I guess I’m what the team needs. I can stabilize their guard position and I bring experience from international exposure to the team," he explains.

By the time Jvee plays his first game with the Powerade Tigers, he would’ve only trained with them a few times. Gilas is deep in training now so the players haven’t been allowed to practice with their respective PBA teams yet. But while he is still adjusting to the system, he promises that he will deliver and help the team go up the standings. Spoken like a true trusty point guard.

The present and the future

Almost two decades since he learned basketball on the streets, Jvee is now at the top of his game. Despite detractors saying he lacks height, width and “angas" to play in the pros, he says he makes up for it with his silent courage. Because when all else fails, Jvee doesn’t.

“This is me and I will not change who I am," Jvee says. "Lakas lang ng loob ang kailangan. I may be an introvert, but I have a strong heart and a strong will." —OMG, GMA News


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