MANILA, Philippines -- NLEX will be without veteran guard Larry Fonacier in the bubble, but Coach Yeng Guiao is confident that they have enough players to make up for his absence.
He has specifically named rookie Mike Ayonayon as one player to watch out for when the PBA resumes its season, which was put on hold since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Marami kaming players, puro nga kami players," said Guiao, as quoted by the league website.
"Pero ang kukuha sa slot niya (Fonacier) ay si Ayonayon," he added.
Fonacier decided last week not to play in the PBA's bubble at Clark, Pampanga, due to family reasons. Guiao confirmed to ABS-CBN News that he was excused by management.
Cyrus Baguio has also opted out from playing in the bubble, where the PBA season will resume on October 11.
Guiao acknowledged that losing Fonacier will be a blow to NLEX, as
he is one of the team's veteran leaders.
"He's one of our best floor spacers with his three-point shooting," he noted.
But the coach is optimistic that Ayonayon will step up. NLEX had selected the rookie with the third pick of the PBA Draft last December, after an impressive campaign in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) last year.
In an interview on "Crossover" recently, Ayonayon had expressed his delight at getting drafted into NLEX, where he joins a loaded backcourt bannered by Kiefer Ravena and Kevin Alas.
"Alam ko naman si Coach Yeng, balanced siya eh," said Ayonayon. "Walang star-star kay Coach Yeng eh, kaya lahat binibigyan ng opportunity."
"Kaya okay lang sa akin na napunta ako kay Coach Yeng. Magf-fit din siguro 'yung laro ko sa kanya at 'yung sistema niya," he added.