WITH No. 2 overall pick Kiefer Ravena expected to sign a max deal with NLEX this week, the Road Warriors are expected to remain a team filled with former members of the Ateneo Blue Eagles squad.
Two former Blue Eagles had just been signed by the team in big man Rabah Al-Hussaini and back-up guard Emman Monfort, although no terms of the deal were made available by management.
With Ravena, who won two MVPs and two UAAP men’s basketball championships at Ateneo, ready to join the Road Warriors in the coming 43rd PBA season, the team will be parading at least six Ateneo alumni when the Philippine Cup kicks off on December 17.
Aside from the three, other former Blue Eagles currently in the NLEX roster are veteran Larry Fonacier, sophomore Alfonso Gotladera, and guard Juami Tiongson, who was also signed to a new contract just before the recent season ended.
It would have been seven Blue Eagles in all had big man Enrico Villanueva opted not to retire at season’s end.
With the exception of Gotladera, the rest won UAAP men’s basketball championships while playing for their beloved alma mater.
“Reunion namin ito,” said Tiongson, who won four titles with Ateneo from 2009 to 2012, while manning the backcourt alongside Ravena and Monfort.
“Siyempre excited dahil makakasama ko uli siya (Ravena) sa team,” added the 26-year-old playmaker, who was on hand to welcome the two-time UAAP MVP on draft day as part of the NLEX family.
The staff of coach Yeng Guiao is also not bereft of former Ateneo players in Claiford Arao and Sandy Arespacochaga.
But Guiao denied any concerted effort to build the Road Warriors around former Ateneo players.
“Nagkakataon lang siguro,” he said. “But at least it helps that they’re bringing with them a winning culture to the team. Malaking bagay yun para sa amin.”
This developed as Kenneth Ighalo has also been signed to a new contract by NLEX, while free agents Jonathan Uyloan and Ronjay Buenafe are trying out for a slot in the team.
Buenafe played for Blackwater last season, while Uyloan suited up for Meralco before being tapped by Cignal in the PBA D-League during the Governors Cup.
Incidentally, both played for Guiao and won a championship while still with Rain or Shine.