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By Dennis U. Eroa
FORMER PBA Baby Dalupan Coach of the Year Ercito “Chito” Victolero believes the Magnolia Hotshots can compete for another title as long as they attain chemistry.
The Hotshots are currently in bubble training at Lipa and the former pro player expressed confidence that his charges can compete with the big guns in the PBA. There is no exact date yet for the resumption of the games badly affected by the pandemic but Victolero assured fans that the Hotshots are getting ready for action.
“I want the team to be like magbabarkada. Yong bang tinginan pa lang ay alam na ang gagawin sa loob ng court,” Victolero said to a Inquirer reporter via zoom.
Compared with the rosters of the other teams, the Hotshots lack a ceiling. Rafi Reavis, Kyle Pascual, Ian Sangalang and even the controversial Calvin Abueva are expected to collar the rebounds against the likes of Ginebra’s Japeth Aguilar, Northport’s Greg Slaughter, and JuneMar Fajardo of San Miguel Beer and other big men in the league.
Victolero won the prestigious Dalupan trophy after steering the Hotshots to the 2018 Governors’ Cup crown. Since then Magnolia remained in the shadows of its sister teams San Miguel Beer and Ginebra San Miguel.
“I am confident with our roster. The core of the team is still here,” said Victolero, a point guard, who was drafted 13th overall by the Sta. Lucia Realtors in 2002. He saw action for Mapua in the NCAA.
In a surprising development, Magnolia’s top brass decided to exchange playmaker Chris Banchero to Abueva, who was previously under coach Topex Robinson of Phoenix.
Victolero said Abueva will play a big role in Magnolia’s title campaign.
“Calvin’s still adjusting but he’s a veteran already. He can play multiple positions and he gives energy to the team especially in defense,” Victolero noted.
The Bulakeno coach said Abueva’s reunion with fellow San Sebastian Stag Sangalang is a big plus. “They are both Pampangueños. They always talk ,” said Victolero, who said that the “Beast” enjoys a good relationship with Magnolia gunner Paul “Angas ng Tondo” Lee. Lee and Abueva once played for Gilas Pilipinas.
Lee, Mark Barroca and Jio Jalalon, who got embroiled in a messy family row before the bubble, are expected to play prominent roles in the backcourt especially with the absence of Banchero.
If there is one thing that Victolero is trying to remedy is the decision of Marc Pingris to hang up his jerseys. Victolero said Magnolia needs the leadership of Pingris, who decided to retire after 16 years in the pro league.
“Paul and the other veterans will now lead the team in the absence of Pingris,” said Victolero.
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