MANILA, Philippines – Former UAAP Rookie of the Year and University of the Philippines (UP) guard Kyles Lao will make his return to the collegiate basketball league this year after missing the entire 2015 season due to an ACL tear injury in his left knee.
Lao, who suffered the tear in a preseason game, was unable to play in UP’s 3-11 campaign during Season 78, the team’s best performance since his arrival in 2013.
Speaking with Rappler this past week at Maroons practice, Lao admitted that, “Looking back at the [rehab] process, I can say it was fast.
“For me it was fast, since every step of the way, there are certain milestones that you have to achieve. Like first, you have to learn how to walk, learn how to jog, learn how to bike, lift weights. So every week, every month, I had those milestones. It was kind of fast for me, but then I have to be honest that it ain’t easy.”
The Xavier High School standout admitted that recovering from such an injury requires more willpower than natural strength.
“Coming back from an ACL injury and being at the UAAP level requires not physical strength. It’s more on mental strength and heart. It’s tough because sometimes your body doesn’t want to respond, but you have to push your way through it,” he explained.
Lao, who’s about to play the third year of his eligibility, believes that he needs to prove himself again during training sessions and in actual gameplay.
“Now that I’m back, of course I feel like a rookie once again. I feel that I have to prove something once again. I have to be someone in UP once again. I feel the nervousness, the anxiety. Of course, I’ve been out for a year. But then again, the excitement is there. The excitement of seeing the crowd,” he said.
There’s also excitement at UP because of the arrival of a new head coach who happens to be an alumnus, Bo Perasol. The former Fighting Maroon spent the past 3 years also coaching in the UAAP for the Ateneo Blue Eagles, leading them to two Final Four appearances.
“Of course, for me, when I came back, it’s all different. New coach. Coach Bo came in with the coaching staff, but I got to say it’s really a blessing to us. Coach Bo is very supportive with his players, very positive,” Lao said.
“It helped me since I came from an injury, the positivity, the trust that he gave me, is there. And for me, I’m very grateful that the coach that recruited me in UP, is here once again, which is (Assistant) Coach Ricky [Dandan]. Again, as a mentor, he’s there for me when I’m feeling out of sync or feeling out of place.”
Although UP’s record last season showed a two-game improvement from the year prior, the team is hoping to accomplish even more in 2016.
“The expectation for the team is, of course, win,” said Lao. “I feel we all have that chance of winning, because everybody’s on an even playing field this season.” – Rappler.com