Among all the factors that can affect an athlete’s performance, fear is perhaps the most daunting. From the doubt that comes from a serious injury to the sight of an imposing defender, fear can impact the psyche of a player and completely change the complexion of a game, season, and even a career.
Coming off a serious knee injury, Green Archer Kib Montalbo knew that tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) meant his recovery would take almost a year, not to mention the stories of others who suffered the same fate and the notion that an ACL tear means the end of a career. Despite all that, Montalbo’s mindset remained steadfast in bouncing back, with the motivation of proving his doubters wrong something that kept him on track.
“Here’s the thing: If you’re scared then why are you thinking about it?” he says in explaining his mindset then and when he takes to the court. “Siyempre maglalayup ka diyan na [parang] daredevil, and if you think about [how you could fall], then don’t play nalang.”
Dating back to over a year ago, Montalbo suffered a dreaded injury that could have cost him his career. Ironically, he incurred the injury right after being oriented on the process of tearing an ACL. However, despite the terrible affliction, Montalbo’s determination to get back on the court led him to become even tougher after his injury.
“The day mismo I was on the floor, I was crying. I felt so much pain. I just told myself na I’m going to bounce back. Like that day mismo I told myself na I’ll go back even though na wala pang results, pero alam kong may problema eh because I couldn’t feel my toes.”
The resolute player made use of the four-month break last year during the transition of academic calendars. He spent seven hours a day to rehabilitate his torn ligament. It took him at least eight months to get back to training and a year to be at a hundred percent playing- shape.
A blessing in disguise
Montalbo treated his injury as a reason to be stronger and as a motivation to prove others wrong. Now considered of La Salle’s defensive anchors, there is no doubt that he was able to overcome his condition and improve his game.
“[The] UAAP is a tough competition. If you’re gonna think about [the injury], well, better not play anymore kasi si God placed me in this position right now. I leave everything to God. ‘Take care of me, I leave everything to you.’ I just play my game, enjoy the game.”
One of his inspirations during his rehabilitation was his father. Montalbo spent his early days as a swimmer, although when he learned that his dad played basketball, he began to develop his own interest in the sport. One time, the day of his swimming competition was the same day that his dad was going to Iloilo to for a game, “I told him, ayokong magcompete, I want to go with you, I want to watch basketball. I want to watch ah, not even play, I just want to watch,” Montalbo reminisces.
When his dad saw potential in him, he began teaching him and instilled discipline in his child. “He scolds me at times pero when he does, I take it as a positive [impact] on me, kasi siyempre, he wants me to improve. He’s my first coach and I’m happy that he’s always here, yung parang every game, he always travels here just to watch the game.”
New lease on basketball life
Coinciding with his road to recovery was the arrival of Aldin Ayo, who began instilling his system during Montalbo’s tedious therapy. A new coach also meant starting from scratch in terms of knowing plays and adjusting to the fast pace the Letran alumnus loves to let his teams play with, an act that he had to juggle with making sure his left leg was as fast as his right.
Montalbo appreciates how Ayo, as a mentor, motivates the whole team and makes it a point to sit down with his players to help them with certain aspects of the game. Having gone through different head coaches since the first day he set foot in DLSU, he mentions how the rookie head coach always instills confidence in his players, no matter the minutes they play in the game.
“Nung first round kalaban [namin yung] ADMU [Blue Eagles], nung nasteal ko kay [Chibueze] Ikeh na nakatalikod, siya [Ayo] nagturo sa akin non,” the Management Major says when recounting an instance when Ayo was a huge influence on his game. “Sabi niya sa akin na before the game, ‘Kib, bantayan mo si Ikeh ah, pagtalikod niyan, kunin mo yung bola.’ So I did it.”
If this season has proven anything, it is that Montalbo has exceeded the expectations laiddown for someone who has just suffered an ACL injury. Through 14 regular season games, the Bacolod native has averaged 24 minutes a game, behind Mythical Five members Ben Mbala and Jeron Teng. He concluded the elimination round with an average of three steals per game. Montalbo also finished second-best in assists, with an average of three per game.
“Mayhem is really different, [the way] coach [Ayo] demands defense,” Montalbo says.
“Pero nagandahan ako sa mayhem eh kasi it’s controlled. You see it’s mayhem, pero everybody knows what they’re doing inside the court. So parang magulo siya, pero it’s systematic.
In his third playing year, Montalbo hopes to develop the character of leadership. “Now, siguro the most important thing for me is to develop my leadership kasi I’m going to be one of the seniors next year.” Since most of the players from the 2013 champion team will soon be graduating, Montalbo will look to step up and lead the team next season as one of the team’s leaders, saying, “I’m gonna be a senior next year because I’ll be the only one left sa 2013 championship [next season].”
Montalbo emphasizes team play as the cause of DLSU’s consistency offensively and defensively. Despite his outstanding performance on defense, he never fails to give credit to his teammates.
“Here’s the thing, kasi in defense, it’s not just me, it’s every one of us working together. Kasi if [my teammates] don’t [double-team] well, I can’t steal the ball,” he shares.
The guard further explains, saying, “I’m a team player, so whatever the team needs, I’ll give it and whatever the coaches need, I’ll give it to them because that’s what will keep you inside the court.” Montalbo shows his determination, saying, “I don’t care if I score zero [points], I just wanna win the championship. Yun lang talaga.”