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From rivals to allies, veterans Mac Cardona and Rico Villanueva happy with roles in NLEX

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Once upon a time, Mac Cardona and Enrico Villanueva were fierce rivals in college, playing for La Salle and Ateneo, respectively. They have since set aside their school’s colors and started to co-exist to set an example for younger players.

As veterans of the NLEX Road Warriors, the two try to keep a hold of the team and guide their less experienced teammates.
“Si Rico magkalaban kami nung college, pero kapag kasama ko siya, malaki ang naitutulong niya sa team,” Cardona told Tiebreaker Times. “Marami na siyang experience. OK yung mix ng veterans and mga bata.” “Ang role namin talaga, specific. Kailangan naming gawin. Gusot naming makita lagi na sa practice pa lang ipinapakita na naming kung ano yung kelangan gawin, kaya nagsho-show rin sa game,” added Cardona.

Cardona also has had to play a more mature role. Before, his main concern was to put up points on the scoreboard. This time, he has to look after his teammates, particularly the younger ones.

“I’m turning 33 na, time na rin siguro para magising ako na isang beterano akong maglaro. Hindi na ako yung parang ako yung iga-guide. Ako na yung Kuya ngayon. Kung tawagin nga ako ng mga bata sa practice Kuya Mac eh. Nakakatanda na pero masarap yung feeling dahil may mga kapatid kang bata,” said Cardona.

Villanueva, on the other hand, is also enjoying himself playing alongside another veteran who’s been his partner up front – Asi Taulava, the oldest player in the league. “Basically ang role ko is makatulong kay Asi (Taulava) and makatulong rin sa mga bata,” said Villanueva. “Gusto kong mai-share yung experience ko sa kanila.”

“Paminsan-minsan tumutulong rin kay Coach Boyet, mga suggestions.”

His career has been riddled by injuries, but Villanueva is happy to be given a new lease in life. His road to recovery can be attributed to working religiously through strengthening, therapy and the determination to get back in tip-top condition.

“I don’t have many more years left sa playing career ko and napagdaanan ko na rin yung mga major injuries, so now I’m cherishing the moment while I’m healthy and given the opportunity,” said Villanueva.

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