Valdez, slowly finding groove, aids Pirates’ latest conquest
Lyceum head coach Gilbert Malabanan is slowly fitting Enoch Valdez back in the lineup.
After getting derailed by a shoulder injury last season, Valdez is starting to find that fit with the Pirates, helping them to a 2-1 (1in-loss) card after an 89-81 victory over sputtering San Beda in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on Saturday.
“He [Malabanan] always tells me to be ready. I really like coach Gilbert because of his hard work. I trust him and he trusts me,” Valdez said after the game at Filoil EcoOil Arena.
The 6-foot-2 guard poured 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the victory, a huge leap from his nine-point outing against Mapua on Wednesday.
Malabanan, though, reiterated that he is calculating the proper minutes for Valdez to avoid any more injuries.
“Enoch has just recovered from his injury, so I didn’t want to force him,” the former pro said.
“But his game earlier forced me to play him [extended minutes] because he did so good,” Malabanan said in jest.
More than his scoring, Valdez also provides a dose of inspiration for his teammates.
“He’s our role model here in Lyceum. His work ethic inspires us, the new players,” Gyle Montaño said after contributing a game-high 18 points for the Pirates’ second straight win.
Malabanan hopes the example Valdez sets will build a more balanced Lyceum attack as the tournament chugs on.
“We still have to work as a team,” he said. “It’s not just Enoch who built this, but everyone. Even the boys who didn’t play … they cheer the players on the court.”