Eric Camson, Raul Soyud get extended minutes as Rico Villanueva out with MCL injury
Eric Camson and Raul Soyud make the most of their extended minutes with NLEx in the game against Meralco. Dante Peralta

NLEX missed the services of veteran Enrico Villanueva against Meralco on Saturday after the big man suffered an MCL injury in the team’s opening game in the PBA Philippine Cup opposite Alaska.

The 36-year-old Villanueva was in civilian clothes during the Road Warriors’ 106-93 loss to the Bolts at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Team manager Ronald Dulatre said the center out of Ateneo went under the knife on Friday under renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. George Canlas.

“Naglaro pa siya late in the game against Alaska, yun pala sumasakit na,” said Dulatre. “So upon examination, nakita nga may tear.”

Dulatre said Villanueva at the most, could be out of action for three to four weeks.

“But we also have to consider Rico’s age. Hindi na rin naman siya bumabata. So baka mas mahaba pa yung recovery niya,” said the NLEX manager.

[See Young guns Newsome, Daquioag provide spark for Meralco]

Coach Yeng Guiao has taken a more cautious approach as he expects the 6-foot-5 Villanueva to be out for the entire all-Filipino conference.

His absence against the Bolts however, is not an excuse for the team suffering its first loss of the season and the first under Guiao, counting all the pre-season games NLEX played.

“We’re not really looking at it as a big letdown,” said Guiao. “It’s an opportunity for some of our bigs to play. In a way it’s a blessing because we can spread the minutes to the guys who we want to get more experience and get into the flow of the team.”

The NLEX coach mentioned the likes of Raul Soyud, Eric Camson, and Bradwyn Guinto as among those who will benefit in terms of playing minutes in the absence of Villanueva.

Both Soyud and Camson played for 20 minutes against Meralco, while Guinto was good for 15 minutes.

The three accounted for a total of 32 points and 17 rebounds in the loss against the Bolts.

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