San Miguel Alab Pilipinas had the right to be worried heading into the final stretch before the start of the playoffs. Josh Urbiztondo had been injured and though he was likely to return in time, it seemed that he might not be fit enough for consistent playing time. Urbiztondo’s contribution has been significant playing the role of a sharpshooter, averaging 10.1 points on 42.7% three-point shooting over the season.
Coach Jimmy Alapag could have been more concerned about how he was going to be able to replace those quality minutes played by Urbiztondo.
But he wasn’t. He knew he had Paolo Javelona.
At the start of the season, not many expected Javelona to play a lot of minutes for the revamped Alab Pilipinas team. They had filled up the backcourt with experienced players like the aforementioned Urbiztondo, ABL Local MVP Ray Parks, Pamboy Raymundo, Dondon Hontiveros, Chris Sumalinog, and Robby Celiz. That’s a lot of experience all around whether in the international level, in the ABL, or in the Philippines Basketball Association (PBA). Javelona played sparingly throughout the season, logging only 5.0 minutes per game in his first 11 games.
“[Coach Jimmy] always told me ‘Stay in there Pao. Your time will come’,” Javelona said.
So Javelona stayed in there. And his time came.
As Alab Pilipinas set the Single-Game scoring record with 126 points over the Saigon Heat in mid March, Javelona had a breakout game knocking down three triples for 11 points. Those 11 points were more than he had scored the entire season.
Urbiztondo was sidelined with a hamstring injury in the following game, which prompted Javelona to be slotted into the starting lineup.
Javelona has been on a tear since and even as Urbiztondo was been able to return to the rotation, the young Javelona has still maintained his share of minutes with quality two-way basketball. Fans have taken notice of his offense and rightfully so — he’s been shooting the lights out (47.1% from downtown) since his breakout game and averaging 9.3 points per game.
However, it’s primarily been his defense that has earned him his playing time.
“[Coach Jimmy] just wants me to do my role. Just play defense and the offense will come.” Javelona says.
In Game 2 of the Semifinals against Hong Kong Eastern, it was Javelona who played a big part in bothering the opposing star, Tyler Lamb, to only 8 points. He played his trademark in-your-face defense on the gifted Thai-American scorer whenever assigned. Lamb eventually fouled out of the game and three of his fouls were drawn by Javelona.
His 11 points were an important contribution to their win, but it was that pesky defense that keeps him on the floor.
“Every game I just wanna play my heart out,” He further expresses. “I want to be on the floor just give all I have.”
San Miguel Alab Pilipinas are now on their way to the Finals to face a strong and deep Mono Vampire team. That means they will need all of what Javelona has to give if they want to bring the ABL crown back to the Philippines for the first time since 2013.
“Coach and my teammates really trust me. They really believe in me.”
“Coach Jimmy always told me to be ready and do what I do in practice. My time will come. So when that time comes, I’m ready and it did pay off.”
“My hard work paid off.”