ANTIPOLO CITY, Philippines – NLEX took a massive risk in having Manny Harris replace former import Olu Ashaolu in the middle of its PBA Governors' Cup campaign, but its gamble paid big dividends.
The former NBA player had a stellar PBA debut after delivering 45 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks, and 3 steals in a hard-fought 117-111 victory over Columbian on Wednesday, October 16.
NLEX may have found an import which could help it go on a deep playoff run and it has Kiefer Ravena to thank for referring Harris to coach Yeng Guiao.
Former teammates for the Texas Legends in the NBA G League in 2016, Ravena said Harris messaged him on Instagram asking if he knew a PBA team which was in need of an import.
It just so happened that Ashaolu got hurt during their games in Dubai, paving the way for NLEX to pull the trigger on Harris.
"With an opportunity with Manny being free – I've seen him play, I know what he's capable of doing – I told coach, 'Coach, I saw it first hand, he was really a good player for the team,'" Ravena said in a mix of Filipino and English.
"Of course it's also a risk taking him in, but I guess the risk paid off tonight. He scored 45 and he was great. He was great."
While NLEX had a successful start to the conference with Ashaolu winning 4 of its first 5 games, Ravena said tapping the services of Harris shows how serious the franchise is in clinching its first title.
"I guess it's something for us that says that we're really going for it, we're really going to challenge San Miguel for that Grand Slam and to challenge everybody that we're capable of also competing at the top, with the best."
Harris, meanwhile, felt he could have done a better job.
"There's always room for improvement. I don't think I've played my best," said Harris, who had stops with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Dallas Mavericks.
"I can do a lot more – rebounds and assists. It might not be every night that you need to score as much points but you might have to get more rebounds and assists. I'm just ready for whatever challenge."
"But the main thing is we were able to get the win, that's all that really matters."
Harris will undergo an acid test when NLEX faces undefeated TNT on October 25 at the Araneta Coliseum. – Rappler.com
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.