Days of uncertainty finally ended for Poy Erram on Friday, and one thing that is certain at this time is that his arrival at TNT has made the KaTropa one of the favorites for the Philippine Cup when the PBA takes the lid off of its 45th Season in just over a week.
Yeng Guiao, NLEX’ firebrand drillmaster who handled Erram as a Road Warriors last season and as a Gilas Pilipinas national before that, believes that the balance of power in the all-Filipino has shifted drastically after the PBA finally approved the three-team trade that had the 6-foot-7 slotman as the centerpiece, as he ranks the KaTropa a close second behind Barangay Ginebra to win the year’s most prestigious conference.
Coupled with the injury to June Mar Fajardo that will likely sideline the soon-to-be-minted six-time MVP for the entire season, Guiao believes that San Miguel Beer is now No. 3 in the rankings, with his Road Warriors—and everyone else—chasing the top three starting on March 8.
“It’s a free-for-all after that,” Guiao told the Inquirer over the phone, just hours after Erram formally left NLEX and will join a KaTropa side that has suddenly been loaded. “I think we are still a playoff team. But it’s like a rumble out there after the top three.”
There was no doubt that NLEX could have squeezed itself in the top three with Erram there—especially with Greg Slaughter taking a sabbatical from basketball and leaving the Gin Kings without its biggest player. But life goes on for Guiao and his crew, which he has challenged with what has happened.
“Losing our best big man was a setback, obviously,” Guiao said. “But I told the players that we have to use it as a motivation to play even better, compete even harder.”
Guiao has never won the all-Filipino in his decorated coaching career. And he is no stranger to being the underdog every time.
In fact, there has never been a tournament where his team was favored that he actually won. And he’s taking that same approach this season.
“In our hearts, with Poy, we felt we had a good chance,” Guiao explained. “Don’t get me wrong, I feel we still have that chance, but it’s just going to get harder.”
Kiefer Ravena, a heady point guard whom Guiao speaks highly of, will continue to be the leader of the Road Warriors, who got Anthony Semerad, Rabeh Al-Hussaini and a couple of future picks from Blackwater in the deal.
The Elite then sent Erram to the KaTropa for Ed Daquioag, Marion Magat, Yousef Taha and two future Draft selections.
Meanwhile, Bobby Ray Parks Jr. has a couple of targets heading into his first full season with TNT.
After agreeing to a contract, Parks said he’s now purely focused on playing while also learning everything he can from Jayson Castro.
“I feel that it’s a great weight off my back,” said Parks, the second overall pick of the 2018 Draft who was an absolute blue chip talent with Blackwater after averaging 20.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.6 steals nine games into the Governors’ Cup before being traded to TNT.
Playing in the same club as Castro was also a blessing for Parks, who regards fleet-footed veteran, once voted the best point guard in Asia, as his hero.
Parks and Castro have been teammates in the Gilas program, but spending time as colleagues in the national team was minimal at best.
“I definitely look up to him and I just want to learn and make his job easier,” Parks said. “All I want to do is pick his brain and learn from him because he’s been through everything off and on the court. He’s definitely an idol to me.”
“I watched him growing up and I’m definitely a fan of his game. I just want to learn and implement it on my game.” —WITH A REPORT FROM BONG LOZADA
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