AFTER years in basketball limbo at the KIA franchise, Kenneth Ighalo could be next among the long list of players who have revived their careers under NLEX coach Yeng Guiao.
Taken by the then-Sorento in the 2014 PBA Rookie Draft after an impressive run with Mapua and Cagayan Valley in the amateur ranks, the 6-2 wingman never really got to play or be noticed in his first few years in the pro league.
But after being included as collateral in the trade that sent Alex Mallari from KIA to NLEX, Ighalo's career has suddenly received a much-needed boost under a coach who has turned similar less-heraded players into stars.
"During those times (with KIA), nagpa-practice lang ako. Ready lang ako lagi. Kung bibigyan nila ako ng break, edi okay, kung hindi edi okay lang din. Basta I just keep myself in shape. Nung na-trade ako sa NLEX, 'yun good thing medyo ready na ako," said Ighalo.
"Sobrang na-excite ako kasi sigurado mabibigyan ako ng playing time e. Kailangan ko lang suklian, little by little, hanggang mag-extend yung minutes," he added.
In the game against GlobalPort, Ighalo was not only given a rare start, but he was also in the game late in the fourth quarter to guard one of the league's premier offensive players - Terrence Romeo.
The dazzling two-guard torched NLEX in the first half with 18 markers, but was limited to just six in the final 24 minutes of action with Ighalo doing much of the work in the final canto.
"Nakakatuwa kasi after ng hardwork sa practice, binibigyan ako ni coach na ipakita yung kaya kong gawin," said Ighalo, who finished with three points, two rebounds and two assists in nearly 14 minutes of action.
"So sinusuklian ko rin yung trust na binigay sakin ni coach. Yun ang binigay niyang trabaho sakin e, depensahan si Terrence, buti nalang nagawa ko," he added.
Considering there aren't a lot of people who can say that they defended Romeo and left with their ankles - and dignity - intact, this performance is certainly Ighalo can draw confidence from.
"Sobrang laking bagay kasi 'yung confidence ko na-build. Feeling ko next games mas gaganda pa, little by little hanggang sa makuha ko yung maximum potential ko."