The 'larong labas' allegation has taken its toll on Ryusei Koga, but it has not stopped the San Beda guard from rejoining the team's buildup for the Final Four of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
San Beda team manager Jude Roque on Tuesday gave an update on the status of the troubled Red Lions guard, saying he has returned to training after being sidelined by flu two weeks ago.
“He has joined our practices for the last four practice dates, although visibly, he’s not in top shape,” Roque said during the Philippine Sportswriters Forum at Shakey’s Malate.
Koga, who stands accused of violating league rules by playing in another league last September 17 while the NCAA was ongoing, missed the Lions’ last game of the elimination round last September 26 against Arellano, supposedly because of the flu.
However, there was also talk that Koga's benching was a strategic move to avoid further repercussions to the team if the allegation was proven true.
Had the Filipino-Japanese guard played in the 78-62 win, the top-seeded Lions would forfeit five won games instead of four, relegating them to a tie for fourth place with Emilio Aguinaldo College at 10-8 and needing to go through a playoff to clinch a playoff berth.
Roque, however, insisted Koga really fell ill and the controversy just made it worse.
“If you see him, you will notice napakapayat niya. May basehan po yung nagkasakit siya. Totoo po yun,” stressed Roque, who remains uncertain if Koga will be ready for the playoffs.
“Syempre yung mental stress this whole issue has brought to him (has really taken its toll),” Roque said. “I guess kung ma-clear siya (of the allegation) and maganda ang ipakita sa ensayo, magagamit pa rin naman siya.”
On the bright side, the absence of Koga has allowed role players, particularly third-string point guard Roldan Sara, to shine.
“Siguro ang maganda lang nangyari since lumabas ito ay nag-step up yung ibang players,” Roque said.
The league's management committee is set to wrap up its investigation and hand out a verdict about the matter later in the day.