GUARD Luigi De La Paz was just too glad to carry De La Salle on his shoulders in the Green Archers’ first season showdown against rival Ateneo in this year’s UAAP men’s basketball tournament.
And to think he was saddled with a shoulder injury that sidelined him last season.
The 21-year-old De La Paz came through in the clutch by scoring all of his 10 points in the second half as the Green Archers rallied to beat the five-time champion Blue Eagles, 82-73, on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
De La Paz hit several key jumpers including a triple late in the fourth to help the Archers notch their second straight win in three tries.
The former De La Salle Zobel standout said he was just ecstatic playing again for the Taft-based school after dealing with the perennial problem of dislocating his shoulder in the past.
“Malaking struggle ‘yung injury sa akin,” said De La Paz. “I was just happy na coach gave me a chance. I’m happy that I’ve been stepping up.”
De La Paz admitted it had been a very difficult time for him ever since he sustained the shoulder injury in 2010. He actually dislocated his shoulder twice during the pre-season of 2011, but still decided to play in Season 74 of the UAAP, which saw him suiting up for just five games and averaging four points per outing.
“Naiilang pa rin ako last year,” said De La Paz. “So I had my surgery last year and I started playing this April lang.”
Playing for only his second game of the season, De La Paz said he just want to provide energy to the team as what head coach Juno Sauler told him.
“Coach put me in the third quarter and he wants me to give energy to the team. And I’m happy that I did,” said De La Paz.
He did not only give energy, but De La Paz likewise provided offense as he converted four of his eight shots in the second half. His five-point swing in the final two minutes of the game put the game away for the Archers, who finally snapped their six-game losing skid against their perennial rivals.
De La Paz along with Arnold Van Opstal also clearly outscored Ateneo’s bench, 28-9.
The La Salle stalwart admitted the game will definitely go a long way in his road to recovery.
“This game, I’m so happy kasi grabe ‘yung last year, it was a super hard season for me, coming back from an injury, super struggle talaga,” De La Paz said
“Games like this, it’s a boost of confidence,” he added.