KEVIN Alas once again suffering an ACL tear on his right knee felt like a punch in the gut for NLEX, more so after the PBa ballclub saw how hard the 27-year-old guard worked to get back in top shape for this season.
"We are all saddened, we are all devastated by what happened," said NLEX coach Yeng Guiao after losing one of his top guards for the second straight year. "Nalungkot kami nung nabalitaan namin yung diagnosis sa kanya. The whole team, not just myself or the players, even the management and pamilya namin, nalungkot.
"We know how hard Kevin worked to get back to recover from the previous injury. Walang nag-expect na ganito ang mangyayari na sunod-sunod - same venue, same side of the court, same knee. Nobody expected it to come out this way."
Alas was going for a rebound in the fourth quarter of the Road Warriors' 87-83 win against Meralco Bolts on Saturday when he landed awkwardly and immediately writhed in pain, slapping the floor in frustration on what was about to come.
He suffered his first ACL tear on the same knee last March, also at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
It was a tough turn of events for the former Letran guard who is slowly getting his bearings back this 2019 PBA Philippine Cup, where he was averaging 8.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.0 steal through five games.
"It’s very difficult. Sabi ko nga, kung kalian gumaganda yung laro ni Kevin, nangyari na naman. And you must recall nung nangyari yun last year, Kevin was also playing his best basketball," said the concurrent national coach.
Sad as the news was, Guiao assured that NLEX will be with Alas every step of the way as he once again rebuilds his knee - and his career.
"We are all praying for Kevin and we are supporting him all the way," he said. "We will be patient with him. We will wait for him till he gets back. And we know he’s a strong boy, he has a strong personality. We know that he can come out of this. So we will just keep supporting him. We will be patient and we offer our prayers and encouragement."
Guiao also bared that the Road Warriors will elevate rookie Kyles Lao, picked 29th overall in the third round of the past 2018 PBA Rookie Draft, to the active roster in Alas' place starting with Friday's game against Phoenix at Mall of Asia Arena.
As for the rest of NLEX, Guiao admitted the pressure is on the team to continue fighting after Alas' injury, especially with another top guard, Kiefer Ravena, still months away from returning from a Fiba suspension.
NLEX is currently 2-3 (win-loss) in the all-Filipino conference.
"Nagkaroon naman ng improvement yung team with Poy Erram and Marion Magat, but we need our guards. We need our guards to complete the pieces of our team to be able to be competitive," the fiery coach said.