Nuyles, Erram rise from injuries to earn PBA spot

Jane Bracher
Injuries are part of an athlete’s life, but recovering from that and become even better defines a person’s character

BACK ON TRACK. After sustaining injuries that put their respective careers in limbo, Alex Nuyles (left) and JP Erram (right) are back on track once again. File photo by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Injuries are part of an athlete’s life, but recovering from that and becoming even better defines a person’s character. 

The misfortune which befell Alex Nuyles, then with the Adamson Soaring Falcons, and JP Erram of the Ateneo Blue Eagles, prevented them from showing their form. Nuyles’ shoulder injury ended his stint with the Falcons. Erram’s knee injury impeded his rise as one of the UAAP’s dominant centers.

Shoulders squared again

Back in 2012, only four games into UAAP Season 75, Nuyles re-injured his shoulder in the first quarter of their game against National University. He was taken out of the game and never returned. Adamson lost that game and their leader.

Nuyles underwent surgery and took his time to return to form. Despite trying to remain positive about his future, worries nagged the 6-foot-2 forward.

Medyo nag-worry ako (dahil sa injury),” he admitted. (I worried a little because of my injury.)

Nuyles led the Falcons to the Final Four in Season 74 as the second seed. But the FEU Tamaraws overcame their twice-to-beat edge. 

His injury, Nuyles said, will never lessen that achievement in his 5 years with Adamson. 

Pero mas lamang yung hindi ako nagwo-worry na matitibag yung pinakita ko sa UAAP.” (But I also felt less worried that what I showed in the UAAP will not be diminished.)

And because he believed in that, a PBA coach did, too. 

Coach Yeng Guiao drafted Nuyles ninth overall for the Rain or Shine Elastopainters in the PBA Rookie Draft. His stock remained high in the year after he left the amateur ranks as he showed his skills when he played for Big Chill in the PBA D-League.

After injury yun na lang talaga inisip ko eh, mas physical yung game sa PBA kaya offseason talagang nagpalakas ako,” Nuyles said. “Tapos yung injury ko tuloy tuloy pa rin yung exercise so offseason pa lang ready na ako.” (After the injury I kept thinking that games are more physical in the PBA. So in the offseason I worked on strengthening. While for my injury, I continued my exercise so during the offseason I was already ready.)

He was surprised he was picked in the first round.

Syempre. Kasi akala ko nakalimutan na ako ng tao kasi galing injury,” he mused. (Of course. I thought they forgot about me because I came from an injury.)

All that is behind him now. Nuyles believes that he can offer Rain or Shine everything he has worked for, which includes aggressiveness and shooting.  Nuyles even recorded an 11-foot-4 vertical leap during the pre-draft biometrics.

Sobrang happy tapos excited makasama yung mga players ng Rain or Shine lalong lalo na si idol na Paul Lee. Tsaka yung nakasama ko si Gabe Norwood sa practice,” he names some of the Rain or Shine players that he can learn from. (Really happy and excited to play with Rain or Shine players, especially idol Paul Lee. And to practice with Gabe Norwood.)

Nuyles went from being down and out, to back on track. He carries a special chip on his squared shoulders–one that reminds him how far he has come since dislocating it.

Sabi ko bahala na si Lord sa akin,” he said. “Basta gagawin ko lahat para makapasok sa PBA.” (I said I’ll leave it to the Lord. I’ll just do everything to get into the PBA.)

Former coach seeks him

Erram injured his left knee as he was becoming one of coach Norman Black’s trusted big men. Erram hurt his knee in Season 75 going up against Adamson in the second round. It was an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury, which is very common among basketball players, and can alter careers.

The irony of it was that Erram wasn’t even a basketball player at first. He was originally a volleyball player. The 24-year-old had only begun playing basketball when he was 17, as advised by his peers.

Unang sport ko kasi is volleyball. Tapos yung basketball sa akin, wala lang,” Erram opened up about how he tried basketball because he was told he was built for it and he could be good at it. (My first sport was volleyball. I didn’t care about basketball.)

Nung nagstart na ako nagustuhan ko siya at marami akong natutunan tapos napaaral ko pa sarili ko.” (When I started playing, I liked it and I learned a lot and I was able to put myself in school because of basketball.) 

The 6-foot-7 Erram was out for six months and it seemed like his collegiate career was in limbo.

Nung una talaga nahirapan ako kasi baka hindi ako makatulong sa team kasi medyo kinakabahan pa ako, lalo na mahirap pag na-ACL ka,” Erram said. (At first it was really hard because I might not be able to help the team because I was nervous, especially since it’s difficult when you have ACL.)

He was a defensive piece for coach Norman Black and the main reliever for Greg Slaughter.

Pero nung tumagal, okay na. Hindi ko na pinapansin at tuloy tuloy pa rin naman yung pag therapy ko.” (But after a while it got better. I didn’t pay attention to it and I just continued with my therapy.)

As he prepared to return for Season 76, Erram experienced pain in the same injured left knee over the summer and was out for a few more weeks. 

He returned for his last playing year. But things weren’t looking good for the Eagles, whose key players graduated after completing the 5-peat.

He averaged 4.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, and one block. He came off the bench in all but one of their 14 elimination round games.

Erram admits it wasn’t his best showing, which is why he was surprised to have an agent contact him and offer to represent him.

Honestly, yes. Nagulat talaga ako,” he explained. “Not naman na wala akong tiwala sa sarili. Pangit lang kasi yung performance ko sa UAAP. Kaya hindi ako lumapit sa mga agent. Sobrang thankful nga ako na pinagkatiwalaan nila ako.”

(Honestly, yes. I was really surprised. Not because I didn’t have faith in myself. I just had a poor showing in the UAAP so I didn’t talk to agents. I’m thankful they still trusted me.)

Short on time to prepare and having no D-League experience, Erram took a risk and entered his name in the draft. He was healthy and raring to show what he’s made of—something he wasn’t able to do in the UAAP.

His old coach Black still believed in him, as he was drafted 15th overall by the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters.

Sa totoo lang hindi ko talaga inexpect. Iniisip ko lang na kahit sino kumuha sa akin, ready lang ako,” Erram spoke with disbelief. (I really did not expect it. I just thought I’d be ready for whoever will take me.)

Ito yung isa sa mga pangarap ko na natupad, makalaro sa PBA. Sobrang overwhelmed ako kasi ibang level na ‘to, professional.” (This is one of my dreams, to play in the PBA. I’m so overwhelmed because this is a different level, it’s professional.)

For now, however, Erram has to bide his time. He isn’t lined up for Talk ‘N Text this conference, but he serves as a practice player for the Philippine Cup defending champions. He is still looking forward to learning more from his former coach and from some of the best post players in the league such as Ranidel de Ocampo.

What would have been a career-ending injury to other athletes became a crucial stepping-stone that, instead of pulling him down, boosted Erram.

Syempre naman kasi PBA, ibang level na eh. You have to prove something every game. Kailangan mo ipakita yung best mo palagi,” he said. “Papakita ko sa kanila na deserving ako sa PBA.” (The PBA is a different level already. You have to prove something every game. You have to show your best every time. I’ll show them that I deserve to be in the PBA.) –

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