KERBY Raymundo's surprise appearance in the dugout and on the bench came as a huge morale boost for a hurting Meralco team in its match against San Mig Coffee on Wednesday night.
“Kerby is still not ready to play, but he was here to give us moral support and that was important,” Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio said of his unexpected ‘guest’ after the Bolts' 72-64 win over the skidding Mixers.
“Ako I was so happy to see him. I’m so used to seeing him in crunch situations when he was still playing for me. In fact, I was so surprised when I saw him that when I hugged him, I stepped on his shoe sa sobrang tuwa ko.”
Acquired from Barangay Ginebra in a one-on-one trade for Jay-R Reyes, the former Letran star has yet to join Meralco in practice because of lingering issues with his knee.
But his surprise presence inside the dugout at halftime and on the bench during the game pumped up his teammates, most of whom were battling injuries of their own.
Unknown to many, star guard Mike Cortez played with a nagging pain in his knee while big man Reynel Hugnatan relied on medication to numb the discomfort in his sprained ankle. Sophomore forward Clifford Hodge sat out the game altogether due to a badly sprained right ankle.
“Rey was not supposed to play, he just practiced the other day. Mike also missed our practice as he was hobbled by injury. For some reason, we were able to find ways to win,” said Gregorio.
Meralco team manager Butch Antonio said: "Kerby was an inspiration. The team played hurt, but we still managed to walk away with the win."
Gregorio and Raymundo won a couple of championships together at Purefoods, but the Meralco coach doesn't have a specific timeframe on when Raymundo can play for him this time.
“I understand that he is not yet ready to play, that’s why he’s not been practicing. But it was such a sight to see him near our bench,” said Gregorio.
“Hopefully he can still come back and be ready this conference.”
Bolts center Don Allado, Raymundo’s former teammate at Purefoods under Gregorio, is optimistic that he and Raymundo can revive a partnership that won them the 2009 Philippine cup crown.
“It was good to see Kerby out there sa floor, kasama namin siya. I think it will be better to see him suit up and kasama namin sa game,” Allado said. “I’m excited to play with him again … hopefully it comes soon.”