With plans of converting spiker Des Cheng into a setter still on the table, her return for La Salle after recovering fully from a torn ACL could potentially send her back to the spotlight but with a different role.
As veteran playmaker Kim Fajardo weighs her options on whether she will go for another tour of duty with the Lady Spikers or altogether forego her remaining year of eligibility, La Salle head coach Ramil de Jesus has laid a contingency plan involving Cheng’s transition.
And if you ask her older sister, Djanel, who played for Benilde as a playmaker, the big change makes real sense.
“Sa akin ngayon, mas gusto ko na ‘yun na lang muna ang trabaho niya kasi nga galing siya ng injury. Medyo mahirap for her. Although gusto niya naman maging setter, ‘yung transition ang mahirap,” the older Cheng told FOX Sports.
Being one of the best setters the NCAA has seen in recent years, Djanel pieced together Benilde’s latest collegiate campaign with ease and precision, eventually leading the Lady Blazers to the Season 91 title.
The road to greatness, however, took Djanel years to master which is in complete contrast to Des’s predicament as the latter only has a couple of months to learn the ropes before possibly being at the helm of the Lady Spikers’ dominant offense.
On the hardships her younger sibling is going through, the reigning NCAA champ shares: “Nagsasabi siya ng madalas sa akin na suko na siya. Ayaw na daw niya. Ang sinasabi ko sa kanya push lang ng push.”
“Madalas inaaya ko siya kumain,” she added, talking about how she boosts her sister’s morale on tough days. “Makikipag-kwentuhan lang siya sa akin. Kailangan lang niya mailabas ‘yun eh. ‘Yung hirap kailangan niya lang maikwento sa ibang tao para mawala.”
The key to unlocking Des’s full potential, Djanel says, could be summed up in one word: patience.
“Naniniwala ako na may potential siya maging magaling na setter. Nagte-training naman siya eh. Lalabas at lalabas din po ‘yun,” she said.
Having no more playing years for Benilde, Cheng’s position as a starting setter will be a void tough to fill given the way she brought out the best in spikers like Jeanette Panaga and Janine Navarro.
But if Cheng’s revelation is any indication, the Lady Blazers will have a new setter that has received the same training foundation she got back in her high school days at Hope Christian High School.
“Ang huling rinig ko nagte-training sa amin sa Benilde si (Jewel) Lai,” shared Cheng who currently plays for Cignal at the PSL.
“Feeling ko pasok naman siya sa program namin. ‘Yung bata naman na po na ‘yun kilala ko naman na since elementary niya pa. Nung high school same school kami,” she added. “Siya na ang sub sa akin nun. Alam ko na rin paano siya maglaro.”
After handing over Hope to Lai a couple of years back, the same transition might take place, too, if and when Lai officially joins Benilde.
“Parang siya lang ulit ang papalit sa akin. Tiwala naman ako sa kanya lalo na may mga katulong pa siya na mga senior niya like sila (Jeanette) Panaga,” she closed. — By Mac Dionisio