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Now injury-free, Escoto proving worth for Tams this Season 78

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When one brings up the name of Far Eastern University center Russel Escoto in a conversation, one thing is quickly associated with his name: Injuries.

Looking back, the Pampanga-bred big man had been sidelined for the whole University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 76 after suffering a knee injury. Season 77 should have been his comeback year, but another injury – this time to his shoulder – barred him to play from the semifinal stage to the season’s end.

“Masakit,” said Escoto, on how it felt to sit out almost two seasons due to injuries. “Maiinis ka na lang dahil ‘di mo matulungan team mo,” he added.

The 6’6”, 200-pound center admitted that between Seasons 76 and 77, he felt the latter had the worse timing to sustain an injury, since he had hurt his shoulder and had been listed as unplayable right during the Final Four fight.

“Mahirap nung [Season] 77, kasi kinukuha ko pa lang ‘yung kumpiyansa ko noon, tapos napilay ulit,” confessed the former Baby Tamaraw, who first saw action with the senior team during Season 74.

However, after all the injuries he has faced and overcome, Escoto admitted that some facets of his game, particularly his athleticism, have dwindled a bit.

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Now injury-free, Escoto proving worth for Tams this Season 78    “’Di na ‘ko masyado makatalon, at parang bumagal ako ng kaunti. Pero [on a] positive [note], lumakas ng kaunti ‘yung katawan ko kasi na-rehab na. Nag-focus lang ako sa strengthening,” said the former Slam Dunk Contest participant in the 2009 UAAP-NCAA All-Star Game.

Now that his injuries are considered a thing of the past, a now-healthy Escoto relishes his stint with the Tamaraws this season, saying that playing without pain only makes him contribute better to the squad.

Masaya ako, kasi natutulungan ko ‘yung team at nakakalaro ako ng maayos. Tipong wala kang inaalala, wala kang iniisip,” shared Escoto, who is now playing his final year for FEU.

Even the Tams’ head think-tank Raoul Cesar “Nash” Racela is happy with the way Escoto has been doing this season, especially now that the latter is free from any pain, unlike during the past couple of years.

“We are happy that Russel is finally playing and free from injury up to this point of the season. We’re hoping he finishes strong until the end,” said the former San Beda Red Lions coach. Escoto has not missed a single game, and has even started in 11 games for FEU this season.

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Now injury-free, Escoto proving worth for Tams this Season 78    When asked what he thinks about his performance this year, Escoto feels satisfied with the way he has been playing for the Tamaraws, but thinks he can still notch his efforts higher to help the team further.

“So far, OK naman. Steady lang, nakaka-shoot at nakaka-depensa, pero dapat mas makatulong pa ‘ko sa team [sa ibang bagay],” said Escoto, who has averaged 6.9 points per game this season and logged 19.9 minutes per game.

Racela, meanwhile, backed up Escoto’s claims, while lauding the effort and efficiency his wily big man is giving the team.

“His rebounds and his perimeter play have been crucial this year. But I honestly believe he has a lot more to give,” said Racela of Escoto, who has grabbed five boards a game and shot 40.5 percent from the field.

Like any other college player, the post-play specialist also aims to make it into the pros, saying that he plans to make himself eligible for next year’s Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Draft. “Pangarap ko ‘yun eh,” he said.

But before he sets his sights to the PBA, Escoto wishes the same thing his teammates –and opponents, of course– hope for, and that is to win the golden hardware.

“Mag-champion muna this season [bago ang lahat].”

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Oftentimes on the sidelines. Forever a student of the game. Morayta-bred.

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