By Waylon Galvez
Hours before the formal announcement of the PBA-approved three-team trade, NLEX conducted its meet-and-greet for its fans.
One of those present was the guy everyone was talking about: Center Poy Erram.
The 6-foot-9 center, of course, was the centerpiece of the trade. Even before the Road Warriors could finish the annual gathering, the team received the news of the trade approval.
“Malungkot kami,” said NLEX coach Yeng Guiao when contacted by The Manila Bulletin.
“We have really high expectations this conference with Poy as an important part when we start our campaign this season. But losing the best big man, we have to now manage our goals and expectations.”
“Now we can just move forward. We can still play a good season, we can still contend… but it’s going to be harder,” said Guiao.
NLEX obtained the services of Erram in a trade prior to last season with Blackwater, giving the Road Warriors a legitimate center–someone Guiao thought would form the backbone of their ambitions.
Although the team struggled due to the injury of guard Kevin Alas and the FIBA-sanctioned suspension of Kiefer Ravena, Erram was able to progress under Guiao’s system as the top center of NLEX.
This upcoming 45th PBA Season, Guiao feels they are more ready especially in the season opening Philippine Cup with Erram’s improvement plus the return of both Ravena and Alas.
“From last year when we got him, we got him to where we wanted him. Mentally he’s more ready this year than last year,” said Guiao, who is entering his third year with the Road Warriors.
The latest three-team trade had Erram going back to TNT KaTropa, NLEX’s sister team, which originally selected the former Ateneo player during the 2013 Rookie Draft, while Blackwater received Ed Daquioag, Marion Magat and Yousef Taha plus two future first-round picks.
NLEX, for its part, obtained Blackwater’s Anthony Semerad and center Rabeh Al-Hussaini, as well as the team’s first-round selection this year and a second-round pick in 2021.
Semerad is recovering from an ankle injury and will be available in a month, while Al-Hussaini is currently in Kuwait – the hometown of his father.
The departure of Erram, according to Guiao, would give NLEX’s other frontline players the opportunity to step up with JR Quiñahan now the focal point for the bigs with Mike Miranda, Raul Soyud, Chris Porter and even the veteran Asi Taulava backing him up.
“This will give our other bigs the opportunity to step up. JR is now the established leader of the group in our frontline. Miranda, Soyud and Porter have to step up,” said Guiao.
“But JR is the steady influence, and rely on the other guys to step up, which I know they will from what I’ve seen in our practice and tune-up games. We redesigned the system to fit in Poy when we got him, but now we have to redesign it again minus Poy to fit the other bigs.”