Necole Ebuen had struggled mightily when Arellano University started off its four-peat bid in NCAA Season 95.
Still recovering then from a surgery that removed an ovarian cyst, Ebuen was out of sorts in the first several matches of the Lady Chiefs. She couldn’t pile up as many points as she wanted, even seeing a dip in playing time for the most part.
It was an alarming stretch for someone coming off a stellar stint as the league MVP in Season 94, and it immediately took a mental toll.
“Noong time na ‘yun, medyo naiilang pa po ako kasi kakagaling ko lang ng surgery. Kaya parang mga nilalaro ko noon parang alalay pa po lahat,” Ebuen recounted.
“Wala po talaga ako halos naitulong kaya sabi ko, ‘Hala, ganito ba ako dati maglaro?'”
There even came a point in time that Ebuen tried to force herself to produce despite the inability of her body to perform on a high level. This, after seeing the Lady Chiefs struggle without her usual contributions on the court.
“Sa kagustuhan kong ibalik ‘yung dati kong laro, parang nawawala ako lalo,” the 22-year-old admitted, citing Arellano’s first loss at the hands of Perpetual where she only managed a measly six points despite heavy minutes as the turning point.
“Sabi kong gan’un, ‘Ano pong pwede kong gawin?'”
The native of Palauig, Zambales simply refused to back down from such adversity. She decided to veer away from the things that reminded her of the injury, even shedding off the abdominal binder serving as support from post-operative pain.
And fortunately, things have taken a turn for the better.
“‘Di ko na lang siya iniisip. Tinanggal ko po ‘yung binder ko. Sabi ko, ‘Wala kang surgery. Hindi ka nagpa-surgery, ‘wag mo isipin na may surgery ka’,” she disclosed, recalling the grueling steps she has taken to regain her confidence.
“Kaya ngayon po nagiging maayos po ‘yung nilalaro ko kasi wala akong iniisip.”
Ebuen also attributed the spike in her performance to head coach Obet Javier. Having seen the string of dismal outings from one of his potent scorers, the multi-titled mentor brought Ebuen — who had played as an opposite hitter at the first half of the preliminaries — back to her natural position.
“Noong nakaraan po nasa kwatro [ako], tapos ngayon po binalik na po ako sa open. Kaya noong binalik niya po ako ng open ng nakaraan, sobrang saya ko po talaga,” Ebuen shared.
“Sabi ko, ‘Yes! Eto na, mababalik ko na yata laro ko kasi binalik na po ako sa dating kong position.'”
Sure enough, Ebuen took a while before re-establishing her footing. But once she did hit her stride, Arellano kicked into a higher gear.
In the two-game winning streak of the Lady Chiefs, Ebuen averaged 12 points per match while helping prevent their opponents from taking more than a set on her watch.
Having regained her old form, Ebuen vows to give it her all for Arellano when they collide with the still-undefeated St. Benilde, who is a win away from an elims sweep and an outright Finals berth.
“Kaya sabi ko, kapag nakalaban talaga namin ‘yung Benilde, gagawin ko talaga best ko para ipakita kay coach Obet,” she declared.
And of course, Ebuen and the Lady Chiefs will not slack off in the buildup to that all-important match, slated on March 16 when action resumes in the NCAA.
“Etong natitirang training namin, gagawin po namin lahat. ‘Yung parang kailangan na sabihin nila coach Obet kung anong gagawin namin, gagawin po namin ng tama. Kailangan po namin lakasan lahat ng palo namin, depensa namin,” she asserted.
“Sabi namin, ‘Sa training gagawin natin lahat. Kailangan natin gawin para ‘yung magagawa natin sa training, madadala natin sa game,” she continued.
“Kayang kaya naman natin basta magtiwala lang po kami sa sarili natin,’ sabi naming gan’un.”