MANILA, Philippines—James Yap has always found refuge on the hardcourt.
Even as a kid growing up in Escalante City, Negros Occidental, the court, he said, had always served as his sanctuary that kept him away from trouble and his thoughts from his problems.
Ripped by personal problems made too public for comfort, Yap sought shelter in his favorite playground again. This time, he found more than just a safe haven.
Keeping his focus in the face of his marital woes, Yap was named the PBA Most Valuable Player during the Annual Leo Awards Wednesday night, becoming only player the eighth player in league history to win the honor at least twice.
“I thank God for this award,” said Yap, who won his first MVP award in 2006. “He gave me the strength to perform well despite the storm in my personal life. It’s probably the most emotional award, the sweetest victory in my career.”
Buoyed by votes from the media and Solar TV, the B-Meg Derby Ace star accumulated 2577 points to claim the award in runaway fashion.
Yap collected 362 points from statistics, 1300 from media votes, 15 from players, 600 from TV coverer Solar and 300 from the league to join Alvin Patrimonio, Ramon Fernandez, William Adornado, Abet Guidaben, Benjie Paras, Willie Miller and Danny Ildefonso as the players to have won the award at least two times.
Alaska point guard LA Tenorio came in second in the MVP race with 1539 points, while San Miguel’s Jay Washington, the Best Player of the Fiesta Conference, finished third with 756.
After powering Purefoods to the title in the All-Filipino Cup last March, where he was named Player of the Conference and Finals MVP, Yap continued his solid play despite his separation from wife, television personality Kris Aquino, the younger sister of President Aquino, two months ago.
“When I’m on the court, I block off all my problems,” said Yap, who averaged 18 points and three rebounds and two assists this season.
Yap’s voice cracked as he dedicated the award for his son, James Jr., whom he said he has not seen in weeks.
“This award is for my son,” said Yap.
Yap also offered the award to his teammates and coach Ryan Gregorio, who has left the San Miguel-owned team to take a job at Meralco.
“I thank coach Ryan for the award. I started with him as a player in the PBA. His trust in me was very important in my development as a player,” said Yap.
Yap, Tenorio and Washington led the mythical first team that also included San Miguel forward Arwind Santos and Alaska center Sonny Thoss.
Making up the second team are Talk ‘N Text players Mark Cardona and Kelly Williams, Derby Ace’s Roger Yap, Coca-Cola’s Asi Taulava and Joe Devance of Alaska.
Rico Maierhofer, the No. 2 pick of the draft last August, captured the Rookie of the Year award, besting undrafted guard Josh Urbiztondo and Rain or Shine’s Jervy Cruz.
Named to the All-Defensive team were Santos, B-Meg Derby Ace’s Marc Pingris and Roger Yap, Gabe Norwood of Rain or Shine and Ryan Reyes of Talk ‘N Text, while Cyrus Baguio bagged the sportsmanship award.