After the PBA’s colorful opening rites last Wednesday, I had a chance to talk with Nino Canaleta, Mahindra’s veteran recruit during the offseason.
Canaleta, whom I have known since his days with the University of the East, shared that the first 10 years of his PBA career was somewhat like a preparation for the challenge he is now facing with his new team Mahindra.
Mahindra is actually Canaleta’s sixth PBA team since joining the pro league as Air21’s sixth overall pick in the 2005 PBA Draft.
After Air21, a team he helped finish third place in the 2006 PBA Philippine Cup, he bounced to B-Meg (now Star), Barangay Ginebra, back to Air21, Talk ‘N Text and NLEX, before ending up at Mahindra last August.
Known for his high-wire acts during his younger years, which saw him win the PBA Slam Dunk contest a record five times, Canaleta found himself packaged by NLEX to Mahindra, along with Aldrech Ramos just days after the 2015 rookie draft.
Being one of the few veteran players at Mahindra, which is just in its second season in the PBA, Canaleta said he is taking his leadership role seriously.
“Medyo bagong challenge din kasi sa akin dahil sila (teammates) and tumitingin sa akin. So ako gina-guide ko rin mga rookies namin,” shared the veteran Mahindra forward.
No wonder, the former University of the East Red Warrior said he is not letting his guard down in practice, even as he tries to be as vocal as possible in the team.
“Tapos sa team namin, hindi ako puwede mag-relax kasi baka gumaya sila so kapag nag-extra ako (shooting), nage-extra din sila,” shared the 2013 PBA Most Improved Player.
“Nakakatuwa dahil sa point ng career ko, nandun na ako, parang beteranong beterano na yung feeling ko.
Canaleta debuted with 11 point for the Enforcers, who couldn’t sustain their quick start after bowing to the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters on Sunday, 106-94.
The high-leaping Canaleta has developed into a deadly three-point gunner over the years, making him a double-barrel threat.
He admitted that Pacquiao expects a lot from the Enforcers this season after the team’s roster retooling in the offseason.
“Malaki yung expectations niya (playing coach Manny Pacquiao) ngayong season kasi parang nag-upgrade yung team kaya inaasahan niya na pumasok kami sa quarters or semis.”
The Enforcers earned the giant-killers tag last season after beating championship-caliber squads San Miguel Beer, Talk ‘N Text, Alaska and Star during the Commissioner’s Cup.
Mahindra ended its maiden PBA season with a 10-23 win-loss record, just above the woeful Blackwater Elite (4-29).