by Waylon Galvez
NLEX rookie Kyles Lao finds himself having to fill big shoes following the injury of Kevin Alas after he was activated by head coach Yeng Guiao on the Road Warriors’ roster of the PBA Philippine Cup.
Alas re-injured his right knee against the Meralco Bolts last Sunday, tearing the same Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) almost 10 months since he first sustained the injury.
The injury has likely sidelined Alas for the rest of the season.
Guiao said that Lao, the team’s 29th overall pick in the third round of the 2018 Rookie Draft, will be included to the roster when NLEX takes on unbeaten Phoenix Pulse Fuel this Friday at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City.
“I’m happy to be activated. But of course… part of me is also sad to see Kevin suffered that same injury,” Lao said.
“I also suffered a similar injury back in college, so I know painful it is – both physically and emotionally. He had the same injury last season. So it’s really unfortunate,” he added.
“But I guess God has plans for everyone, for everything. I think it’s a blessing in disguise that someone vacated the position I’m up to the challenge. I know it’s a big role to fill in especially that is Kevin’s position,” added Lao.
Alas has been playing well so far for NLEX this conference. He was instrumental in the Warriors’ back-to-back wins, holding averages of 12.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists.
Lao said there is no way he can match the experience of Alas as a five-year professional player but said he’ll try to emulate the hard work the former Letran stalwart in practice and during games.
“All I can do is to fill in and do the little things he does,” said Lao.
“As coach Yeng mentioned to us, said Kevin went down, but it doesn’t mean NLEX will also go down. He wants the next man up. So I want to emulate all things Kevin does, all the things he brings to the team.”
“But you have to remember that it’s a team sport and it should be a team effort, everybody has to step up for Kevin,” added Lao, who won rookie of the Year honors during the 2013 UAAP Season.
Lao said that though he has been on the team’s reserve, Guiao and the NLEX coaches remind him to continue to push and work hard to improve his game.
This is because he will be given the opportunity to showcase his game and what he can do for the team. That time, according to Lao, has come and he hopes to give it his all to help the team.
“Ever since, at the start of the season, he was really keen on saying to always be ready at all times. Any situation of the game, we just have to be ready to contribute as much as we can,” said Lao.
“Coach Yeng has instilled that mindset to us, and I think to all the teams he’s been with the past years, and he has done that successfully. So for me, I just try to keep pushing myself hard on practice and doing the extra work to be ready,” added Lao.