Top Most Valuable Player contender Schonny Winston finally got a piece of action for De La Salle University after missing four straight games in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 85 men’s basketball tournament due calf injury.
Although his stint was brief – a total of three seconds on the floor – Winston was glad to return to court and get a feel of the game once again.
“It was just to get my feet wet to try to slowly integrate me back into the coach’s system,” Winston said following the all-important 63-58 win of the Green Archers over third-running National University on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Winston checked in with just four ticks left in the opening period before spending the remainder of the game cheering for his teammates.
“Just anything to help, support the team, get a feel of putting on the jersey on and playing in the arena again. When I really come back full blast, it’s gradual. It felt good,” he said.
La Salle coach Derrick Pumaren said he just wanted Winston to slowly get the feel of the game after a long absence. It was Winston’s first appearance in the second round after putting up impressive numbers in the Green Archers’ first seven assignments.
“We just tried to make him feel as I’ve said he’s a game-time decision and I just want him to get a feel of the court and if he’s ready. When the time comes that he will play then he knows the feeling because he’s been out for four games,” Pumaren said.
Winston’s return came just in time as the race for the top individual award requires at least 10 games played.
In his first seven outings in the season, Winston averaged 21.29 points, 6.14 rebounds, 3.57 assists, 3.0 steals, and 0.14 blocks per game with a norm of 32.20 minutes of action.
But winning the MVP plum is the least of his concerns right now.
“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 help the team win. That’s my main priority: The Final Four and the championship game,” Winston said.
With a 6-6 win-loss record, the Green Archers need to win all of their remaining games to join defending champion University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University and NU in the Final Four.
La Salle will face University of the East on Saturday before the elimination round closes on 30 November against also-ran University of Santo Tomas.
Pumaren hopes to increase Winston minutes in the coming games.
“You know what Schonny can contribute so we really need all that we can get. So, if he goes back then I think that would be a big help and an added boost for our campaign making it to the Final Four,” he said.
For now, Winston is working on his full recovery and getting back into game shape.
“It was weeks of recovery and strengthening so it’s a process, a process of getting fully healed so I can finally come back and help the team win,” he said.
“When I’m out there, it felt good. That’s all I can say. We’ll just take it day-by-day and gradually just incorporate more and more. That’s the process.”