MANILA, Philippines -- Converge head coach Jeff Cariaso is crossing his fingers that Justin Arana did not suffer a serious injury after the rookie center had to be helped off the court on Sunday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
Arana, the fourth overall pick in the 2021 PBA Rookie Draft, exited with an ankle injury in the second quarter of their PBA Philippine Cup game against the San Miguel Beermen. However, he was able to return with 10 minutes left in the fourth period.
"When he sprained it the first time, this is the fight in the kid eh. Alam mong fighter. He told me that he's okay to come back. And so I gave him another chance, although I was a little worried," said Cariaso.
Less than three minutes after his return, Arana crashed to the court again, and this time he needed to be carried by his teammates back to the bench. He did not return to the game, finishing with four points, six rebounds, and two blocks in 22 minutes as the FiberXers absorbed a big 111-92 defeat against the Beermen.
Cariaso later told reporters that Arana sustained a sprained ankle. "I'm not sure if the second ankle sprain was the same. So, I hope 'yung tweak, hindi naman ganoon ka-grabe, that's what we're hoping," the coach said.
Arana has a history of injuries, having played through a knee ailment in the NCAA Season 97 men's basketball tournament with Arellano University.
"There's always a concern when guys get hurt or are hurt," said Cariaso.
They intend to be careful with Arana, whom the coach sees as a major building block for the franchise. So far in his rookie year, the 6-foot-7 big man is averaging 7.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.3 blocks per game.
"We're happy with his progress. He definitely will be our future, because again, he's too big, and he works too hard not to be. So we're really happy and proud of him," Cariaso said.
Arana was not the only Converge rookie to suffer an injury against San Miguel. Kurt Lojera played just four minutes after absorbing a hit in the fourth quarter that caused some dizziness, leading the Converge staff to hold him out for the rest of the game.
The FiberXers (2-4) return to action on Friday against Barangay Ginebra.