MANILA, Philippines – After four straight absences due to a left calf strain, La Salle star guard Schonny Winston finally made his return against the NU Bulldogs on Wednesday, November 23.
While the Green Archers rallied to a huge 63-58 win over their second-ranked foes, Winston actually had little to do with the victory as he only played four seconds to end the first quarter, and never returned.
Still, it was a step in the right direction for the graduating dynamo. He not only saved his UAAP MVP candidacy by staying on pace for the minimum 10 games played, but also gave his teammates a much-needed momentum boost by being in full uniform instead of his usual street clothes.
“[My return] was just to get my feet wet to try to slowly integrate me back to the coach’s system,” he said. “Just anything to help, support the team, get a feel of putting the jersey on, and playing in the arena again. So when I really full blast come back, [there will be] a gradual process. It felt good.”
Although Winston did the bare minimum to stay in MVP contention, individual achievements are actually far from his mind as fourth-ranked La Salle needed a three-game winning streak just to get back up to an even record of 6-6.
“It’s just whatever it takes to win. The MVP is something like on the side that will come along, but really, it’s all about winning and helping the team win. That’s my main priority, the Final Four and the championship game,” he continued.
With two games left on their schedule, the Archers have to hurdle the lagging, but ever-dangerous UE Red Warriors on Saturday, November 26, before closing out with a makeup game against the also-ran UST Growling Tigers on Wednesday, November 30.
Amid that stretch, La Salle head coach Derick Pumaren hopes Winston encounters no more speed bumps on his road to recovery as he continues to get back into game shape.
“You know what Schonny can contribute, so we really need all the help that we can get. So if he goes back, I think that would be a big help and an added boost for our campaign making it to the Final Four,” he said.
Winston, however, is not getting the game high get to him just yet and possibly risk any setbacks.
“When I’m out there, it felt good. That’s all I can say,” he said. “We’ll just take it day-by-day and gradually just incorporate more and more. That’s the process.” – Rappler.com