(Musong Castillo/Inquirer Sports)
“THEY need to prepare for us harder from now on.”
Chito Victolero said that he only got wind of the Calvin Abueva trade from Magnolia management on Tuesday, and that thought immediately came to mind as the former Rookie of the Year and one-time PBA bad boy nicknamed “The Beast” found his way to the Hotshots.
“We can play big and we can play small. That’s the versatility that Calvin will bring to our team,” Victolero sain an interview, hours after the latest blockbuster trade that had the Hotshots giving up Chris Banchero and two selections in the March Rookie Draft.
“I’d like to think that [other teams] will be paying more attention to us now,” Victolero said in Filipino as Abueva arrives at a Magnolia side that is not really lacking in talent but can now be mentioned as a true powerhouse in the same breath as San Miguel Beer, Barangay Ginebra and TNT.
Magnolia had wanted to host tryouts so that Victolero himself could see who would be the best prospect for them with the sixth overall pick in the Draft, which the Hotshots have now given up to get a player with the caliber of Abueva.
The Hotshots also gave up the 18th overall pick to the Fuel Masters to acquire the energetic forward, who averaged 13.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 6.7 assists in the PBA bubble after coming out of a 16-month suspension.
Meanwhile, Phoenix coach Topex Robinson will certainly miss that across-the-board production, but he is excited over having a veteran point guard “which we didn’t have in the bubble,” and the prospect of getting a talent who “can be good as a No. 2 pick at No. 6, considering how deep the Draft is.”
“At (No. 18), we can also get someone who could be as good as an early second-round pick,” Robinson added.
Aside from being a reliable scorer, Banchero can hold teams together during critical times like he did while he was still with Alaska and, briefly, with the Hotshots, Robinson said.
“Pwede na kami pumalag sa mga powerhouse teams (we can now hold our own against powerhouse teams),” Victolero said. “We need to keep on improving because every team in the league is improving in this off-season, especially when the Draft comes.”
“Management asked me if I was OK with having Calvin on board, and I said, of course,” added Victolero, who almost dismantled the San Miguel dynasty in 2019 by taking the Beermen to the full seven-game route in the Philippine Cup Finals only to lose by a point.
Abueva, who will be reunited with San Sebastian teammate Ian Sangalang at Magnolia, and the Fuel Masters almost barged into the Finals of the PH Cup in the bubble last year, coming within a win of a championship appearance only to be forced to a deciding fifth game by the Tropang Giga and losing there./(Musong Castillo/Inquirer Sports)