AFTER dominating the previous three conferences of the PBA Developmental League, NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez said the coming season will be a test of character for his newly assembled Road Warriors.
Nine of Fernandez's players were selected in the recent PBA rookie draft but he prepared well for their departure by signing center Greg Slaughter and forward Nico Salva – both from Ateneo – weeks before the draft.
NLEX also netted Adamson forward Eric Camson and another off guard from Ateneo, Oping Sumalinog, in the hope of filling up the key spots that are crucial to the team’s campaign this season.
“It will be tough for the new recruits. They have big shoes to fill,” admitted Fernandez, adding the Road Warriors will still be a defensive-oriented team.
The departure of Clifford Hodge, Chris Ellis, Calvin Abueva, Dave Marcelo and Eman Monfort for the Road Warriors’ roster is definitely music to the ears of their rivals, who were left fighting for second place the past three conferences.
“Many teams have beefed up their rosters and the new age requirement provides more opportunities to players in terms of livelihood and likewise make games more exciting,” Fernandez said.
Effective this season, the league is allowing teams to enlist players who are over the age limit of 26, but not over 28 provided they are PBA veteran or rookie free agents.
While admitting the loss of Hodge and company is a jolting blow to the team, Fernandez remains confident the Road Warriors will remain as competitive.
And it could be welcome news for Fernandez that four of the nine NLEX players who joined the draft, namely Woody Co, Jaypee Belencion, Eric Suguitan, and Karl Dehesa, have remained unsigned as of Thursday and may opt to return to the team.
“We want to be as competitive as the previous conferences. So I’m sure management will be happy to have them back,” Fernandez said.