Things are certainly looking up for the NLEX Road Warriors in the 2019 PBA season.
Despite dealing with a string of injuries, an aging frontcourt, and the suspension of super rookie Kiefer Ravena, coach Yeng Guiao’s wards still managed to make it to the playoffs twice last year.
After a rather busy off-season, NLEX appears to be one of the teams on the come up in the Philippine Cup, with the acquisition of Poy Erram and the return of Kevin Alas from a knee injury.
Appearing before members of the press during the PBA Media Day at Solaire Resorts and Casino, the newly-acquired Erram shared his first impressions with his new PBA squad.
“When it comes to adjustment, hindi naman ako masyadong nahirapan kasi nandiyan naman yung mga teammates ko nung college, sila Emman and sila Juami,” the 6’8 beanpole told FOX PH. “Naging coach ko din si coach Yeng sa Gilas, so most of the plays na tinatakbo ng Gilas is same lang. Siguro pagdating lang sa different players, different attitudes so dun lang kailangan yung adjustments ko pa.”
Erram drew interests from a lot of teams after a breakout season for the Blackwater Elite last year, where he normed averages of 12.17 points, 10.37 rebounds, and 1.97 blocks per contest. His stellar play earned him an invite to Guiao’s hastily assembled national team for the 2018 Asian Games, and eventually to Team Pilipinas in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
Erram credited his overall development to his stints with the national team, where he teamed up with elite big men like June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter.
“Laking tulong, syempre. Ngayon pa lang nagsisimula yung career ko talaga, ngayon palang ako nare-recognize ng mga tao, so thankful talaga ako sa Gilas,” he said. “When it comes sa attitude ko sa game, tapos yung mga big stars ng PBA pa makakasama mo. Yung kompyansa mo talagang tataas pa since lagi mo silang nakakasama and nabibigyan ng advise. For me na continuously learning sa game, ang laking tulong niya.“
He also thanked the program for helping him deal with the immaturity issues that plagued him early in his career.
“I mean, hindi naman ako perfect na tao and nagkakamali din ako, so through them nababawas-bawasan ko siya. Nalalaman ko kung pano i-handle kung responsibilities, yung negativity and yung positive. Nase-segregate ko sila para hindi ko sila nadadala habang naglalaro.”
Meanwhile, NLEX will still have to miss out on the services of Ravena, who is still serving time from his 18-month suspension laid down by FIBA. But the Road Warriors still have a silver lining in the form of Alas’ anticipated return, after being sidelined for nine months to rehabilitate a torn ACL.
“Physically I’m 100 percent. Pero yung game shape ko hindi ko masasabi kasi, it remains to be seen sa game,” he told FOX PH.“With coach Yeng naman sa mga past few tune-up games namin he gave me a lot of minutes. Binibigyan niya ako ng confidence para makuha ko yung timing ko and yung rhythm ko. I’m fortunate enough na I’m with coach Yeng”.
Now back in tip-top shape, the second overall pick of the 2014 Draft looks forward to resuming his promising career, especially for the chance to play with the team’s latest additions.
“I’m excited with the rookies and with Poy. Syempre we’re hoping for positive results this season. Kailangan namin patunayan na competitive na kami kasi we have the big names na this season,” he said.
“Tulad ng ng dati, I’m going to give my 100 percent, and I’m hoping to be better than before I got injured.”