Like in any profession, health is ideally the highest of priorities. However, just like in most professions, such is not the case.
Success evokes a feeling like no other and even the chase for it has a thrill few can beat. Attaining success by all means necessary then becomes the direction many take and this is not lost in the realm of sports.
For the AdU Soaring Falcons, success and much of their recent success would not have been possible without Jerom Lastimosa. Through the highs and lows, Lastimosa was a constant presence, with his scoring and playmaking a big reason as to why the Soaring Falcons remained competitive until the end of each UAAP season. Players from all walks of life and varying talent came and went, but Lastimosa was still there.
In UAAP Season 85, Lastimosa, who averaged 15.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and a steal in 14 games, led Adamson back to the Final Four after outlasting the DLSU Green Archers in a playoff for the last spot before getting blown out of the water by the ADMU Blue Eagles in the Final Four. It brought joy to an AdU community that patiently waited for nearly five years, and while it ended quickly, it certainly felt like something to build on.
UAAP Season 86 was supposed to be Lastimosa’s swan song and an opportunity for him and the Soaring Falcons to leave a more lasting impression in the Final Four. Preseason preparations towards that end were in full swing until Lastimosa suffered a knee injury that was serious enough for his status for Season 86 to be put into question.
Lastimosa was scheduled to return in the second round of Season 86 and for a moment, it seemed like he would follow through in making a comeback for the ages against the UP Fighting Maroons. While noticeably cautious, there were signs that this was the Jerom Lastimosa of old.
Unfortunately, things came to a cruel end quickly. Lastimosa knocked knees with Gerry Abadiano halfway through the third quarter. He was subbed out and able to walk to the bench on his own power, but eventually, Lastimosa was carried back to the locker room.
This weekend, Lastimosa and Adamson confirmed everyone’s worst fears: Lastimosa suffered a complete tear of the ACL in his left knee. Not only will he be out for the rest of Season 86, but the 2023 SEA Games gold medallist faces a lengthy recovery before embarking on his professional career.
One can’t fault Lastimosa, though, for trying to come back and play; after all, he’s been loyal to AdU, who prior to the start of the season retired his number a few days before the start of Season 86.
Lastimosa reportedly received interest from professional teams abroad following his performance in Season 85, although nothing really materialized out of that. Now one has to wonder if those teams will still be knocking on his doors when things are better.
As noble as his intentions are to keep his word with the Soaring Falcons, no one would fault Lastimosa for thinking about himself from here on out. The career of a professional basketball player can more often than not be counted with the fingers in one’s hands and at 25, the opportunities may be more niche.
Of course, on Adamson’s end, the question on whether it was wise to let Lastimosa play. At 4-5, the Soaring Falcons remain in the middle of the pack and in the hunt for one of the spots in the Final Four and they’ve been doing so without their star. Having him back would have been a major boost and even if it was the second round, maybe Lastimosa should have been given more time.
AdU has been winning the games they should, such as those against the FEU Tamaraws, who they outclassed in a 63-54 victory. Joshua Yerro and Joem Sabandal, who has been one of the Soaring Falcons shouldering some of the load in Lastimosa’s absence, led the team in scoring with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Adamson has been surviving at this point and could very well make consecutive trips to the Final Four if they win more than half of their remaining five games. The formula has been working and rather than tinkering with it, AdU head coach Nash Racela and his staff should focus on consistency at a time when a steady hand can spell the difference between a trip to the Final Four and an early exit. Jerom Lastimosa’s brief return from injury ended before he could get his footing in UAAP Season 86 and while this isn’t the way he pictured things to be, Lastimosa may now have to set his sights on the bigger picture. The AdU Soaring Falcons may have to do the same and as things stand, a Final Four spot remains in the cards thanks to the foundation Lastimosa laid down over the years.