Vic Manuel has set a new career-high in scoring three times already in the seven games he has played for the Alaska Aces in the 2018 PBA Commissioner's Cup. Manuel has always been a hard worker in practice but the arrival of assistant coach Danny Ildefonso allowed the "Muscleman" to work smarter and better.
"Every practice, I do extra work with him. He really focuses on my improvement," Manuel said about the two-time PBA Most Valuable Player.
"Having him as a coach is huge, especially at the post. I had my own post moves before but now I have more because of him. Now I'm also learning to think on my feet. How to adjust my moves depending on how the defense plays me. Every timeout, every dead ball situation, he always calls me aside for more reminders and I make it a point to listen to him. When he arrived, my game really improved."
Manuel had a decent performance in the Philippine Cup where he led his team in scoring with 13.9 points per contest on 45% shooting from the field.
Now he's the leading local scorer of the entire league, averaging 24.9 points per game on 60% field-goal shooting. He's one of only two locals in the top 10 list of scorers in the Commissioner's Cup alongside Matthew Wright of Phoenix.
What makes this feat even more astounding is that Manuel plays just 21 minutes off the bench for the Alaska Aces.
Already playing the best conference of his entire career, Manuel convinced more believers to join the bandwagon as he dropped 35 points in the Aces' 103-99 win over the Magnolia Hotshots.
Manuel played 23 minutes and 21 seconds, shooting 14-of-20 from the field and punishing every defender Magnolia head coach Chito Victolero sent his way.
"We're short on players so we needed to step up," Manuel said after the game. "I was just lucky that I got through the defense. When Rafi (Reavis) was on me, I just tried to use my speed because he's so tall and long and he was hard to back down."
When Manuel was defended by import Hotshots' import Justin Jackson, Manuel used a traditional basketball move to outsmart the more athletic defender.
"He was so heavy and quick. After I spun, he was still there so I took the shot from under his arm and luckily a foul was called," Manuel said sheepishly.
The 30-year-old forward, who played for GlobalPort, Meralco, and Air21 before landing with the Aces, has always been a threat in the shaded area since he was an amateur. However, his face-up game, specifically his jumpers, are falling at a much more consistent rate now.
"I had my own post moves before, but now I have more because of [Danny Ildefonso]... When he arrived, my game really improved." Vic Manuel
Manuel, again, credits the attention given to him by Ildefonso.
"After every practice, coach Danny helps me out with my shooting. He wants me to make 70 mid-range shots and 30 three-point shots. It's tiring but it really helps because I also have a face-up game now to add to my post-up game," Manuel said.
The Aces are closing in on the top two at the end of the elimination round as they aim to finally challenge for another championship. Manuel knows there's a lot of pressure on him as they are currently undermanned.
"We just try to continue what we're doing," he closed. "We need to maintain it. It's a big loss not having them around but we can't stop playing. We need to find a way to keep winning."