Coming off a three-game absence, Prince Orizu was in high spirits after playing in his first outing for the FEU Tamaraws on Sunday.
Orizu logged in just nine minutes but he still managed to produce six points and five rebounds. The Tamaraws prevailed over the NU Bulldogs, 79-74, to keep its Final Four bid alive and forge a tie for with the UP Fighting Maroons. But for Orizu, he was simply happy to be back on the court with his teammates.
"It feels good but I'm a little bit out of shape because I haven't played since [the injury], but it feels good to be back," he said. "My timing coming back is perfect. That's what I'm worried about ever since, but I'm happy I was able to play nine minutes and I was able to contribute in that nine minutes I played today."
The Nigerian center suffered a left ankle sprain three games ago in a matchup against the Ateneo Blue Eagles. FEU lost that game as Angelo Kouame ended up with a historic 33-point, 27-rebound performance. In Orizu's absence, the Tamaraws suffered two more losses. They finally ended that losing streak at the expense of the UE Red Warriors, and then their recent victory over the Bulldogs gave them an opening for a postseason entry.
The 6-foot-8 Orizu's reinsertion to the lineup can only increase FEU's Final Four chances. FEU and UP currently share the same record at 7-6. A win over the Tamaraws' last assignment versus the Adamson Falcons and a loss by the Fighting Maroons would mean an automatic semifinal berth for FEU. Conversely, if UP wins its matchup against the DLSU Green Archers and FEU loses, the Fighting Maroons get in. Should the two teams end up with identical 7-7 records, a knockout game will take place for the last postseason slot.
"It's a very important game for us," Orizu said about his team's next game. "But for me, as much as we think about the game now (against NU), we just have to go back in practice and focus more on how to win the [next] game. I know we're gonna come out strong in that game because it's a very important game for us."
Prior to getting injured, Orizu was averaging 8.6 points and 9.8 rebounds. The numbers don't usually jump out of the stat sheet for the hulking big man, but it's his work on the defensive end that makes him a valuable piece for FEU. Now on his final year, Orizu wants to be in a position for a title.
"I've never not been in the Final Four since I've played in the UAAP," Orizu shared. "I don't want to give up now because of the ups and downs of the team and my injury too. I just take it as a motivation and push myself more towards that game."
FEU will take on Adamson next Sunday in the last playdate of the elimination round.
"Going to that Adamson game, it's something that I'm looking forward to," he said. "We just have to play together as a team. We have to trust each other, trust the coaches, and trust the system, play like brothers. We got this."