AT this stage of his recovery, every little progress means a lot for Ian Sangalang.
When Spin.ph caught up with him a few days ago, the Purefoods sophomore was happy to note than he can walk freely without having to be overly cautious about certain movements and sudden turns.
“Okay na yung tuhod ko. Nakakalakad na ko ng maayos, kaso nagte-therapy at rehab pa ko,” said Sangalang, who has also become a fixture behind the Hotshots' bench during games.
“Tapos na yung three-week conservative stage ko. That time, marami pa akong bawal gawin sa paglalakad ko lateral, turn around. Basta, pigil ang galaw ko nun. Ngayon okay na ko.”
It has been over three months since the promising Sangalang suffered partial tears on his ACL and MCL in his right knee in Purefoods' opening game of the season last October 23.
Although there have been several encouraging developments, Sangalang still faces months of rehab and therapy supervised by noted surgeon Dr. Jose Raul Canlas before he can get back to action for the Hotshots.
“Sabi ni doctor (Raul) Canlas, six months daw okay na ako o baka wala pa raw six months, mare-release na ako dun (sa rehab),” he said, adding he is looking at the month of May as the possible target for his return.
“Kaso ang concern ko kung makakalaro ba ako ulit by that time, kasi may apprehension si coach Tim (Cone). Talagang takot siya nab aka mapasama pa,” he added.
Cone bared he has been missing the services of Sangalang, who he calls as the team’s "steady reliable." But at the same time, the Purefoods coach made it clear he won't rush the youngster's return.
“I really miss Ian. He gives us the needed points and rebounds when we needed it," Cone said. "But I just can’t sacrifice his future. We have to make sure he’s ready when we utilize him.”
Sangalang is barred from rejoining Purefoods’ practice until after he completes his rehab in the latter part of April.
“Ang tagal pa 'nun. Pero tatiyagain ko na ito. Sinisipagan ko talaga ang rehab ko kasi gusto ko pagbalik ko 100 percent healthy at ready na ulit ako,” said the former San Sebastian Stags star.
The former NCAA and PBA D-League MVP bared he misses playing terribily.
“Miss na miss ko nang maglaro. Nasasaktan nga ako sa tuwing manonood ako ng game. Mga kakampi ko naka-uniform, ako naka civilian,” he said.
“Ambigat rin ng karga kong lungkot. Pero wala akong magagawa, alam ko may plano sa akin si Lord,” Sangalang added.
Purefoods governor Rene Pardo believes Sangalang has left a big vacuum in the team’s rotation, but is also looking out for the kid's welfare.
“Iba talaga aggressiveness at level of play ni Ian. He’s a big loss, pagpasok kasi ng grupo ng mga young turks namin, nakakasabay siya,” said Pardo.
“Magaling pa siyang dumepensa, para kasi siyang leader ng second group. There are times pa nga na nasasapawan ng second group ang first five namin, which was good for us,” he added.
“I just hope he returns the soonest … kaso sa third conference na 'yan. Ayaw naming biglain. Baka mapasama pa, kawawa ang career ng bata,” he said.