Chris Banchero joins point guard-heavy Magnolia Hotshots

Published November 4, 2019, 10:32 AM

by Jonas Terrado

Chris Banchero immediately got an idea of what seemed like as endless possibilities after attending his first practice with Magnolia since the trade that rocked the PBA during the holiday break.

Magnolia coach Chito Victolero flashes the thumbs up sign while being accompanied by new acquisition Chris Banchero after Monday's practice at Ronac Art Center in San Juan. (Jonas Terrado)

Magnolia coach Chito Victolero flashes the thumbs-up sign while being accompanied by new acquisition Chris Banchero after Monday’s practice at Ronac Art Center in San Juan. (Jonas Terrado)

“We just did a little scrimmage here,” Banchero said following the afternoon session held at the Ronac Art Center in San Juan. “I’m pushing the ball down the floor and I got Paul Lee on the other side and we got Mark Barroca trailing and I got Romeo Travis here.”

The bulk of talent the Hotshots has is among the things that excites Banchero, whose nearly five-year stint with the Alaska Aces officially ended last Sunday when the PBA Commissioner’s Office gave the deal a go.

Magnolia had to bid adieu to role players Rodney Brondial and Robbie Herndon in order to get Banchero, who joins a loaded backcourt that includes Lee, Barroca and Jio Jalalon while reuniting with former Aces teammate Travis.

It also allows Banchero to flourish under a lesser role than do the heavy lifting that he did for most of his time with Alaska.

“I got a lot of guys around me so I don’t have to do much. I just got to make the right plays and just get my opportunity. So we got a lot of good players over here and I’m excited to play with them,” he added.

There’s probably a sense of regret as Banchero leaves the Alaska franchise after almost five seasons.
Banchero came close to winning at least one championship in five finals appearance, only to feel disappointed in the end.

“I’m very grateful for everything they did for me the past five years,” said Banchero, who expressed his gratitude to Alaska team owner Fred Uytengsu, Team Governor Dickie Bachmann, sports development manager CK Canapi and the coaching staff.

“But it’s a new chapter in my career and I’m very excited. I think it was time for me to move on. You know, I was one of the last guys from the original core the past five years so I’m excited and it feels like I got a new life and I’m excited about that, the feeling of excitement to come and play basketball again.”

One of Banchero’s title defeats with Alaska was against Magnolia in last season’s Governors’ Cup Finals, a series that didn’t start after a hilarious moment that saw a reporter mistakenly calling Magnolia coach Chito Victolero as “Coach Banchero.”

“Maraming salamat ha. Talagang magkamukha naman talaga kami, di naman kami nagkakalayo,” Victolero said in jest during that pre-Finals press conference.

Almost a year later, Victolero is pleased to with another key asset that he hopes would help in Magnolia’s chances of a repeat in the season-ending conference.

“Talagang pinagusapan namin ni Chris na yung changes sometimes kailangan yun para mag-grow ka pa lalo,” he said. “Limang taon din siya sa Alaska and I think mas excited siya ngayon at mas makakatulong sa kanya kasi nasa ibang environment naman siya, iba yung mga makakasama niya.

“It’s almost a year since we faced Alaska in the Finals and alam naman natin kung anung kanyang gawin ni Chris. At yun ang maitutulong niya sa amin, yung energy na dinadala niya sa Alaska before,” Victolero added.