When the De La Salle University Lady Archers were slowly chipping at a once-imposing 16-point lead against the Adamson University Lady Falcons last Wednesday, Cholo Villanueva could not help but be amazed at how fifth-year floor general Camille Claro remained composed all throughout.
“We saw Camille being the best point guard in the UAAP now, show[ing] talents and leadership,” recalled Villanueva, a former UAAP Men’s Basketball Champion. “When she starts pushing herself, that’s where the team goes.”
La Salle went on to pull off a spectacular comeback, 66-64, to keep their Final Four hops alive. The pint-sized guard scored 16 points built on three triples.
But that was not the case for the Lady Archers a year ago.
For that entire season, Claro was sidelined due to an anterior cruciate ligament tear. And it felt like she was living in a nightmare as the Lady Archers suffered loss after loss.
“Parang kulang na lang sabihin ko kay coach na kaya ko ito kahit masakit para matulungan ko yung team,” Claro recalled as La Salle had finished with a 3-11 record – their worst finish under Villanueva.
“Wala kong magawa eh, cheer na lang sa gilid.”
The Lady Archers matured without her as well. That is why when she came back to the fold, it felt like she was joining a new team.
“Si Khate [Castillo] nagbago yung laro, umangat eh. Yung iba rin like Kat Nunez, siya lang yung point guard last year, pati yung rookies last year nag-step up,” she shared.
“Parang bagong team nung pagbalik ko.”
Slowly, she was able to get her groove back.
Prior to the season, Claro went on to win the UAAP Last 1 Standing Skills Challenge tiara. That, together with her teammates’ push, helped her regain her lost confidence.
“Nung una, natatakot ako kasi may trauma pa from last year. Baka pagnag-lay up ako ulit ma-ACL ulit ako. Lagi pa rin ako sinasabihan ng teammates ko na huwag ko isipin yun at last year ko na at bigay ko lahat,” said the AB Sports Studies major.
“Kailangan ko bumawi e. Yung last year, habang nanonood ako, wala akong magawa e. Kailangan ko bumawi sa team ko at sa community. Kailangan ko dalhin yung team sa Final Four or sa Finals.“
So far, Claro has been going all-out for the Lady Archers, tallying norms of 9.8 points and 3.0 assists. More importantly, she has yet to miss a game.
“It’s a very big factor that she’s back. She’s the floor general, she’s my extension on the court.
“She leads both on offense and on defense. And she’s very composed especially down the stretch,” Villanueva remarked about Claro.
“Lahat na bibigay ko. Sabi nga ni coach, ‘Kahit ma-injure ka man, no regrets.’ Lahat bibigay ko kahit magsuka, gagawin ko,” Claro added.
The goal for now is to end her UAAP career by – at least – lifting the Lady Archers to the Final Four. And she is taking what Villanueva said in stride.
“Nakaka-pressure dahil ang daming magagaling sa UAAP ngayon. There’s [Jhazmin] Joson from Ateneo, sila [Taki] Tacatac, ang dami eh,” she stressed.
“Basta ako laro lang, simpleng basketball.”
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