PBA: Nowhere to go but up for Guiao and NLEX

NLEX Head Coach Yeng Guiao (photo by Peter Paul Baltazar)
NLEX Head Coach Yeng Guiao (photo by Peter Paul Baltazar)

The NLEX Road Warriors have so far remained perfect, winning their first two assignments. They won over Kia Picanto handily (119-115) and then turned back GlobalPort Batang Pier. It is clear that the player that is standing out is rookie Kiefer Ravena.

The former Ateneo Blue Eagle has shown that he is ripe to play in the pro ranks. He has contributed to almost all departments, and such has delighted head coach Yeng Guiao.

“Kiefer will take care of himself, he knows how to play in this league as young as himself and as a rookie,” said the multi-titled coach in a report from ABS-CBN.

However, the real test for Ravena would be once they face the heavyweights of the 2017 PBA Philippine Cup. Leading that list is the defending champion San Miguel Beermen, crowd-favorite Barangay Ginebra, TnT KaTropa and the surging Meralco Bolts.

Kia is a team searching for an identity while GlobalPort is trying to survive without Terrence Romeo. The wins are meaningful for the Road Warriors, but the real battle begins when they meet the favorites of the PBA tourney.

Looking at the PBA schedule, the Road Warriors will next face the Phoenix Fuel Masters on Dec. 27. Phoenix is technically another team in rebuild mode though a squad Guiao is not going to take lightly.

From there, the heavyweights come into play. It all starts with the Paul Lee-led Magnolia Hotshots on Jan. 14 at the Ynares Center in Antipolo and then the defending champion Beermen on Jan. 19.

Kiefer Ravena (photo by Peter Paul Baltazar)
Kiefer Ravena (photo by Peter Paul Baltazar)

With one more game before the year ends, Ravena has ample time to sharpen his skills and add more experience before facing proven PBA vets. That all starts in January when he meets Paul Lee and Mark Barroca of the Hotshots before taking on the tested SMB guards in Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot.

Looking beyond Kiefer, NLEX is an entirely different team. Quietly overhauling the team by securing old players, Guiao’s magic is starting to take shape.

So far, Kiefer is living up to his role as the icing on the NLEX roadmap. The question right now is whether Guiao’s brilliance will immediately reap dividends and give the Road Warriors their first PBA title. Either way, there is no way to go but up for Guiao and his gritty squad.