RC CALIMAG was not around on Tuesday during a welcome dinner organized for Batang Gilas following their stint in the Fiba Under-16 Asian Championship due to a prior commitment.
His presence in the competition proper, however, was pivotal in Batang Gilas claiming a berth in the Fiba Under-17 Basketball World Cup.
Needing a win to secure a place in the World Cup, Calimag hit a tough shot in their quarterfinal match with two seconds to play in the game, giving the Philippines a 72-70 win over Japan.
Batang Gilas coach Mike Oliver said Calimag was actually nursing a hyperextended right knee. Unknown to many though, Oliver said Calimag has been playing hurt since the game against Hong Kong, the match before they played Japan.
Despite the injury, Oliver said the 17-year-old Calimag chose to play in the crucial match against Japan.
“Nung game pa against Hong Kong. ‘Yung game natin against Japan, pinilit lang niya maglaro dahil very crucial ‘yun. Manalo ‘yun o uwi ka na,” said Oliver.
Oliver said Calimag gave his all in the Japan game, bucking pain in his injured right knee.
”Binigay niya ‘yung best niya so may one part dun na nagpapa-sub siya kasi sumasakit pero siguro dahil adrenaline rush, sobrang hyper niya, gusto niyang maglaro,” said Oliver.
The De La Salle-Zobel standout turned out to be the hero of the game, burying that go-ahead basket against Japan. After the final buzzer, Calimag was one of the players that showed emotion in the game as his teammates hugged each other following the play.
At the dugout, Oliver said Calimag could not even walk despite hitting the game-winning shot. It was at that point where the team decided not to field Calimag anymore in the remaining two games.
“Right after the game, talagang hindi na siya makalakad. Wala na talaga. Ayaw naman natin pilitin,” said Oliver.
Following the end of his campaign, Calimag averaged 11.3 points (third-best behind Kai Sotto and Terrence Fortea), 3.5 rebounds, one assist, and one steal during the Fiba Asia competition.
In the end, the adage ‘No pain, no gain’ held true for Calimag.
“What a relief din sa kanya. May nararamdaman siya pero naipanalo niya,” said Oliver.