“Ba’t nangyari ‘to?”
Alaska forward Kevin Racal could only ask himself that in the moment after learning that he completely tore his right anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), meaning that he’s done for the PBA season.
The 29-year-old was the first player casualty inside the bubble in Clark after sustaining the injury during the Aces’ opening day match versus TNT last Oct. 11. His knee wobbled while trying to play defense during the third period.
“Nung nalaman ko sa MRI, siyempre nanghina ako. Bat nangyari ‘to? Kasi ang tagal natin hinintay ‘to,” Racal told Bryan Ulanday of the Philippine Star.
“Tagal kong hinintay ‘to, ‘yung pagbabalik natin sa laro.”
The 6-foot-3 forward admitted that he never thought the injury was that severe. He had even planned to play through the pain in his eagerness to help the rebuilding Milkmen.
“Sa totoo lang, nung hindi pa nache-check ni Dr. [Raul] Canlas ‘tong tuhod ko. Gusto ko talaga ilaro,” he said.
“Para sa sarili ko, wala akong nararamdaman na ACL ako. ‘Di ko talaga expected na ganun.”
But the results said otherwise. But as heartbreaking as it was, Racal is just taking on the challenge of emerging victorious from this setback. And he has overcome the same predicament before.
Racal suffered a torn ACL during his days with Colegio de San Juan de Letran — albeit the left one, back in 2014. The following year, he came back and helped the Knights clinch the NCAA championship.
“Sabi ko na lang sa sarili ko, nasa akin kung paano ako makakabalik. Na-experience ko na ‘to dati tapos nakapag-champion pa ‘ko sa Letran,” said Racal, who entered the pros in 2015.
The cager from Mandaluyong now has his sights set on recovering. He will leave former US military base in Pampanga sometime this week, so that he can start rehab.
“Pag-uusapan pa namin ng mga doktor namin, PT, tsaka si coach Jeff [Cariaso].
“Gusto na rin ni coach Jeff na ma-operahan na agad para makabalik na agad,” he said as the earliest that he could return would be after six months.
But if he would have his way, Racal wants to stay put and finish the bubble season to help Alaska — even if he’s just on the sidelines.
“Sabi ng mga teammates ko, halos lahat sila, ‘wag daw muna ako umuwi. Parang gusto rin nilang makasama pa ako dito,” he said. “Ako rin naman, ayaw ko pa umuwi. Gusto ko sana tapusin muna ‘yung bubble.
“Kahit ‘di ako nakakalaro, gusto ko nakakatulong ako sa kanila kung ano maitutulong ko. Baka may maituro rin ako sa kapwestuhan ko na mga wing. Para sa akin malaking bagay ‘yung matutulungan ko sila.”