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Phoenix coach Robinson counting on new players

THE Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters have had it busy in the offseason, trading players to come up with a team that fits the direction they want to take moving forward.

It is a development that has head coach Topex Robinson excited as he feels they got players who can help the team improve more.

On Tuesday, Phoenix completed a deal with the Alaska Aces sending forward Vic Manuel along with two rookie picks in the upcoming Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) draft to the Fuel Masters in exchange for veteran guard Brian Heruela and three picks for this year and next season’s drafts.

It was the second deal that Phoenix was involved with in less than a week after the deal that sent enigmatic forward Calvin Abueva to the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok for guard Chris Banchero.

The trade also involved picks in the March 14 rookie draft.

For Mr. Robinson, to be able to get Messrs. Manuel and Banchero in separate deals is a shot in the arm for their team as the players fill some gaps in their makeup.

Mr. Manuel, the Phoenix coach said, should cushion the loss of do-it-all and all-hustle Abueva with his physical play and veteran smarts, while Mr. Banchero should provide steady leadership and big-game mentality in their guard rotation.

“I’m happy with the players that we got. We did not only find a replacement for Calvin in Manuel, but we also got a player like Banchero. We expect them to help the team,” Mr. Robinson was quoted as saying by the official PBA website.

The coach is also high on the seventh overall pick in this year’s draft they received as part of the deals, bent on using it to get a player that could further enhance the team they got.

“In the regular draft, like in the past, this no. 7 is like getting no. 4 or No. 3,” said Mr. Robinson, referring to a special Gilas Pilipinas draft in effect in this year’s rookie selection next month.

But he is still confident of getting a quality player with the rookie talent pool one of the deepest in recent league history.  “With the talent that’s there, [it’s] good for us.”

Phoenix had one of its best tournaments in the PBA in last year’s tournament “bubble,” where it reached the semifinals and came just a win away from barging into its first-ever league finals appearance.

It did it with a balanced attack on both ends of the court and hopes sustain such push in the next PBA season. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo

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