JC Intal’s faith in himself pays off
MANILA, Philippines – When things don’t go your way, sometimes all you have to do is keep the faith.
That’s what former Ateneo Blue Eagles standout JC Intal did when he suffered a meniscal tear in his left knee, causing him to miss basketball action for 4 months in 2012.
Before he could return to full health, he had to familiarize himself with a new system and create new chemistry with a new team, as he was traded from the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers to Barako Bull Energy Cola as part of a blockbuster 10-man, 5-team trade in January of 2013.
The high-flying swingman's health issues didn't end there, however. After recovering briefly, his knee gave him troubles anew, just as he was about to suit up for Barako Bull a month after the trade. And when he finally did log some of his regular minutes, there was still the lingering task of getting his rhythm back—a matter more significant for a player whose arsenal is fueled by athleticism.
The setback came at a time when he was expected to peak and realize his full potential. Naturally, it took a toll on the 30-year-old from Manila.
“It was really frustrating lalo na nung na-injure ako sa San Mig Coffee,” Intal shared after Barako Bull's impressive upset over number two team Petron Blaze Boosters on Wednesday night. “But di ako pwedeng mawalan ng loob.” (It was really frustrating especially when I got injured with San Mig Coffee. But I had to have faith in myself.)
His faith paid off big time in that game, clocking in 17 points, 6 rebounds, an assist, and two steals to earn Player of the Game honors.
Throughout the Philippine Cup so far, Intal has been one of the steady cogs for Barako Bull, already coming up with 6 double-digit outputs. He registered a personal conference-high 21 points against his former team San Mig Coffee in a two-point losing effort on December 17.
As it is, Intal and the entire Barako Bull squad have already exceeded expectations this conference. They are now in sole possession of fifth place with a 5-7 record that includes wins over bona fide contenders.
Intal says that going through the process of recovering from an injury taught him to simply believe in himself when nobody else did. He also noted that, although he came from a champion team and went to a struggling team, he believes they have just as much chance as anybody to be contenders.
“Kailangan maniwala pa rin ako sa sarili ko. Kahit nandito ako sa Barako Bull, malakas pa rin ‘tong team na ‘to and sabi nila farm team pero sana napro-prove namin kahit papaano na kaya naming tumapat sa ibang teams.” (I need to continue believing in myself. Even if I’m here with Barako Bull, this is still a strong team. They say it’s a farm team but I hope we are slowly able to prove that we can compete against other teams.)
Barako Bull will get the chance to prove just how strong they are in their next outing, as they're set to face the league-leading Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on Sunday, January 12 at SMART Araneta Coliseum.
Gathering back confidence
As a player accustomed to leaping high, driving and slashing his way to the hoop, and even shooting from the outside, it was quite easy for Intal’s confidence to dither. Shaking off the uncertainties was not an overnight process. Though it was heaps easier when confidence was willingly given to him.
“Sobrang thankful lang ako sa teammates ko at sa coaching staff. Ang taas ng confidence na binibigay nila sa akin,” Intal expressed his gratitude for his team’s support. “Si coach Bong (Ramos), di ako pinipigilan tumira kahit saan. Iba talaga yung confidence na nakukuha ko.”
(I’m very thankful for my teammates and the coaching staff. They give me plenty of confidence. Coach Bong does not stop me from shooting anywhere on the floor. The confidence I’m getting is astounding.)
That confidence was definitely on full display against Petron when Intal slammed the ball into the hoop with 27 seconds left, creating a little space for Barako, 91-88. It was the dagger that sealed the win.
But it’s not just confidence at jumping high that’s come back for him. His shooting touch has also seen much improvement.
For some perspective, Intal’s field goal record during his rookie year from 2007 to 2008 when he was drafted fourth overall by Air21, per pba-online.net, was 51-of-175 in 32 games played and 380 minutes. He made 10 triples as well during that year.
His most productive year was from 2009-2010 with Barangay Ginebra, where he averaged 10.38 points and 4.35 rebounds per game, also according to pba-online.net.
In 12 games so far this conference Intal is already averaging 10.92 PPG and close to 5 RPG in 24.42 minutes a game. He has also already shot 15 three-pointers, beating his 14 treys with San Mig Coffee last season in 35 games.
This, he claims, was the result of non-stop shooting practice even as his legs tried to recover.
“Sobrang thankful ako kasi kailangan talaga i-practice (yung shooting) every day kasi once na nag-stop ka, once na nag-quit ka, mawawala talaga yung kumpyansa mo,” he said. (I’m very thankful because you really need to practice [shooting] every day because once you stop, once you quit, you will really lose your confidence.)
With such a performance, Intal can only hope to continue to be free of injuries.
“Hopefully injury-free this year, kasi yun talaga yung setback ko sa San Mig Coffee, and hopefully ma-sustain ko yung mga games na ganito.” (Hopefully I’m injury-free this year, because that was a real setback for me at San Mig Coffee, and hopefully I get to sustain these kinds of games.)
After an injury that could've derailed his entire career, Intal is back and ready to make up for lost time. With the support of his teammates and his strong faith in his own capabilities, the high flyer knows his time to shine is just around the corner.
“Sana tuloy-tuloy lang.” (I’m hoping things continue like this.) –Rappler.com