MOTIVATION is something NLEX will not lack in the coming PBA season that kicks off with the Philippine Cup on March 1.
Coach Yeng Guiao yesterday said the Road Warriors are bristling to bounce back in a big way from the last Governors Cup, when they emerged as the eliminations topnotcher for the first time in franchise history only to be waylaid twice in the quarterfinals by eighth-seeded NorthPort.
“We’d try to use that experience as a motivating factor,” Guiao told Malaya-Business Insight, adding the bitter lesson should be a learning experience for his squad.
“We know we can be No. 1 pero hindi lang namin natapos,” stated Guiao. “Sa isip namin, in our hearts, we know we are capable, prepared to play against the top teams.
“Sometimes you lose on breaks, sometimes you have a bad night. Nangyayari talaga iyun.
That experience has become a rallying point for the team.
“Everybody’s looking back at that experience, nanghihinayang. We don’t want to experience the same thing all over again.”
Adding to Guiao’s optimism is the fact his team got a big boost with the arrival of rookie draft picks Mike Ayonayon, AC Soberano and Will McAloney.
“Lalo na sa all-Filipino. Ang feeling ko kasi, through the past two or three years we’ve been trying to put together a team that could contend in the all-Filipino and this is the closest we have gotten,” explained Guiao.
“Puwede pa namang i-improve, pero tingin ko ito na ‘yung pinakamalapit na puwede naming i-assemble at this point. Of course, you can always improve your pieces. But for the meantime, this lineup can contend with the best.”
Ayonayon and Soberano are sure to fight for their slots in a team that already has Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Alas, Philip Paniamogan, Kyles Lao, Jericho Cruz, Bong Galanza, Cyrus Baguio and Larry Fonacier in its backcourt.
“Although guard-heavy kami, you will always welcome another talent who can make an impact,” said Guiao, specifically referring to Ayonayon, a prolific scorer for the San Juan Knights in the MPBL.
“Iyung pagdating ni Ayonayon is still a good problem,” added Guiao. “You have to compete for your playing time and your slot. So that competition will be good for the team in general.”
Kris Porter, who missed majority of his rookie season due to a knee injury, is also set to make his return in late March and add muscle to a team that also has Poy Erram, JR Quinahan, Mike Miranda, Paul Varilla and Asi Taulava.
“Maganda mix ng veterans and rookies,” noted Guiao. “Good balance.”