After suffering a Jones Fracture in his first basketball game of Season 81, Taane Samuel aims to make up for lost time as he looks to give the Green Archers a much needed boost to make it to the Final Four. Samuel, a New Zealand native, is filling in import duties for the Taft-based squad after the departure of Ben Mbala.
The big-man is hoping that he comes in just in time for the Green-and-White especially since a Final Four berth is within grasp.
Getting through the rehab process
The Jones Fracture was a tough blow for the rookie both mentally and physically. Moreover, this was an all-new experience for Samuel in his athletic career. “It’s tough, coming off a big injury like that especially since it was my first big injury and being out for a couple of months. They [teammates] really just stayed by my side all throughout everything, the coaches, and even the parents of some of my teammates as well,” Samuel narrates.
Although the game against Ateneo was his first game back since his injury, he shared how he still isn’t in top condition, “I’m not a hundred percent yet but I will be soon. Maybe [in] a week or two.”
After sitting on the sidelines for a couple of months, Samuel said having two games to prepare for and familiarize himself before potentially heading into the Final Four was important. “Hopefully I find my groove within the next game or the next few training sessions. These games are going to be big for us to get our team chemistry really up to the standard we need to compete in the finals,” he shares. Although, the rookie isn’t fully adjusted and well yet, the team hopes that his presence on the court will prove to be the driving force they need to get over the hump.
Rising up to the challenge
Samuel has big shoes to fill as La Salle’s previous import, Ben Mbala, won two Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards and a championship in his two years with the Green-and-White. Despite this, Samuel is determined and ready for the challenge that is presented in front of him.
That competitive and determined spirit was clearly heard and seen in him. When he was asked about what he thought about going up against Kakou Kouame, one of the leaders in the MVP race this season, Samuel expressed, “Big props to him for doing what he’s doing but once I’m fully healthy, I’m gonna be competing with him with everything. It doesn’t matter if he’s a couple of inches taller than me, I’m still going to compete.”
Samuel is still adjusting to the style of play in the UAAP. “The intensity is different. I’m just gonna do what I can to match it and just play like everyone else. It might take a couple of games or so but by the time the Final Four comes around, I’ll be there. But, I’m kinda used to the physicality,” he shares. Before entering the world of competitive basketball, the New Zealander came from a rugby background. “If someone pushes I’ll push back. It’s nothing new to me, I’ll just keep trying to match it and keep trying to play like how they play,” Samuel responded when asked about what goes on in the competition.
The Kiwi hopes to give the Green Archers a different look and a new weapon with his unique skill set. Samuel will be put to the test again immediately, as DLSU’s next matchup will be later today, November 14, against another Katipunan-based squad, the UP Fighting Maroons. The Lasallians hope that after playing his first game since the injury, the rookie-import will be able to put his imprint in every statistic to win the deciding game and eventually clinch their Final Four berth.