MANILA, Philippines -- De La Salle University welcomed back star guard Schonny Winston on Wednesday, with the Filipino-American player making a cameo appearance in their big win over National University.
Winston was on the court for three seconds after being subbed in late in the first quarter by head coach Derick Pumaren. He did not return in the second half, but the Green Archers still had more than enough to claim a 63-58 win over the Bulldogs.
"It was just to get my feet wet to try to slowly integrate me back to the coach's system," Winston later said of his brief appearance. "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 full blast come back, it's gradual. It felt good," he added.
Winston has missed four straight games for the Green Archers after sustaining a calf injury in their last game of the first round against Adamson University.
Even with him on the sidelines, La Salle has rebounded from a brutal four-game slide to bring their Final 4 hopes back to life. They have now won three straight games, including back-to-back triumphs over top-seed University of the Philippines and No. 2 National U.
Winston's return was certainly a welcome sight but both the player and Pumaren say they are not going to rush him back into full action.
"When I'm out there, it felt good. That's all I can say," said Winston. "We'll just take it day-by-day and gradually just incorporate more and more. That's the process."
"We just tried to make him feel kasi as I’ve said he’s a game time decision and I just want him to feel kung papaano, kung pupuwede," Pumaren said, for his part. "When the time comes that he will play then he knows the feeling kasi he’s been out for four games."
His three-second appearance against the Bulldogs also ensured that Winston will remain in the running for Most Valuable Player honors this season. The La Salle guard was the top candidate after the first round, thanks to averages of 21.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 3.0 steals per game.
But players need to appear in at least 70% of their team's elimination round games in order to be eligible for individual awards, and had he missed the game against NU, Winston would no longer be qualified 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," said Winston. "That's my main priority: the Final Four and the championship game."
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