Victolero relishes chance to coach a player like Abueva
MANILA, Philippines—It may have come off as a shock, but the trade that sent Calvin Abueva to Magnolia was actually a well-churned-out process mixed with a moment of serendipity.
Hotshots head coach Chito Victolero said that he and Phoenix counterpart Topex Robinson were already talking about a transaction that would improve the two teams’ rosters but never was Abueva mentioned in their earlier talks.
It was until the Magnolia management gave Victolero a call that a trade for Abueva could happen and the team would give what’s needed to get the polarizing forward.
“Coach Topex and I have been exploring scenarios for our teams but sometimes I’d propose something but it wouldn’t be possible on their part and he’d come up with something but it’s on our part that would be impossible,” said Victolero in Filipino in a Zoom interview with Inquirer Friday. “Those talks were just between us, but at the end of the day it’s still the management that has the final say.”
“Then one morning, team management called me if I like to have Calvin so of course, I said yes immediately. He’s a perfect fit for the team and even before I already imagined Calvin could be part of the team even when he went through his problem, I thought to myself that we could help him and he could be part of the team.”
With teams moving quick, Magnolia sent Chris Banchero, as well as its first and second round, picks in the 2020 Draft to the Fuel Masters for Abueva and a 2020 first round pick.
Victolero said that he immediately called Robinson of the Magnolia management’s proposal and said Banchero was a player he’d like to have in Phoenix’s roster.
“I called coach Topex of what the bosses and I talked about and that’s where it really started to pick up. He told me he likes Chris then we gave up some picks. After that, I raised it to management and it was really quick because the two teams wanted the players they were getting and I liked what coach Topex and I agreed on.”
HIGH RISK, HIGH REWARD
Getting Abueva, however, was still a surprise for Victolero as the 6-foot-2 forward played at a near MVP level when he returned from his 16-month suspension.
There was also the fact that Abueva just signed a three-year maximum contract extension with the Fuel Masters.
Abueva played like a man possessed posting up averages of 15.4 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.7 steals and helped the Fuel Masters reach the semifinals before losing to eventual runner-up TNT in five games.
“Of course at the start, I was surprised because Calvin performed really well when he returned, he was truly an impact player and he always plays his best to whatever team he goes to,” said Victolero. “There’s also the risk though but I said to myself that this is a high-risk, high reward scenario.”
It’s been well-documented that Abueva had his share of demons on and off the court with his 16-month suspension stemming from altercations against TNT import Terence Jones and Maika Rivera, Bobby Ray Parks Jr.’s girlfriend.
There were also his off-court issues that confounded his misery during the suspension.
“I think it’s now the coaching staff’s job now to motivate the player,” said Victolero. “We have the opportunity so we grabbed it and I feel that Calvin would be a big help to the team because of how he plays. This is my chance also to coach a player like Calvin.”