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Chris Banchero ready to sacrifice for title shot with Magnolia

There was admittedly some reluctance on Chris Banchero's part when he was told by Alaska Aces head coach Jeff Cariaso that he would be shipped to the Magnolia Hotshots in a two-for-one trade last week.

"I didn't wanna be traded, I wanted to stay in Alaska. I love playing for Alaska. They took care of me, took care of my family and put me in a really good situation for the entire five years I was there and I couldn't be more grateful for everything they did for me," Banchero said Monday. "It's a business and when you don't win, things happen, things change."

That feeling immediately dissipated in his first practice with the Hotshots, where the presence of oozing talent and an open shot at competing for a title immediately gave way to excitement on the part of the All-Star guard.

"It's still kinda weird for me to put on a Magnolia jersey but it felt really good today. To be out here with these guys, you know, there's a lot of good players on this team. I felt I was able to come in and kinda just... I don't have to do too much. There's so much talent on this team so I'm excited to play with them," he described.

"I was extremely excited because I know how much power Magnolia has. Excited to play with these guys. It will be fun."

It's all about doing less now for Banchero, who was formally moved to the Hotshots for guard Robbie Herndon and big man Rodney Brondial after the trade was approved Sunday by Commissioner Willie Marcial. With Magnolia, there's a huge possibility that the 30-year-old guard won't have to deal with a lot of pressure from opposing defenses on a nightly basis anymore -- a possibility that was previewed to him during his initial runs with the team.

"I was in the scrimmage today and I looked over and I got Paul (Lee) on the right side and I got Mark (Barroca) on the left, and I got Ping (Marc Pingris) coming in the middle and I come off the ball screen with Ian (Sangalang), who's one of the best big men in the game here in the PBA. All those threats really add up, and people are really gonna have to pick their poison when they play us," Banchero observed.

"With all the talent around me, I don't really have to force too much or try to do too much. I just have to play the game the right way and make things simple because there's so many other guys out here that can do things."

Concerns of having to fully utilize three star point guards are not entirely unfounded, of course, since there can only be enough touches for everyone, but Victolero insists "it's a good problem" to have for Magnolia.

"We want pressure and we want high pressure, high-octane offensive basketball," the coach explained in Filipino. "If you noticed, I've always had guards on the floor - two guards, three guards. And I want to manage their minutes also so they'll have fresh legs, especially in the fourth quarter."

"The only problem now there is the chemistry. He's new. I told him that the most important thing here is our chemistry. We're not the most talented team ... but the chemistry is always there," added Victolero.

Banchero isn't really worried about having to share ball-handling duties with two other ball-dominant guards and actually welcomes the new development after being tasked to solely run the offense for most of his five-year stint with Alaska.

"I told them I'm at this point in my career where I don't have to prove anything," Banchero said. "I've been in the PBA and everybody knows the type of player that I am. It's always fun to come out and score 20-30 points and have 10-15 assists, but when I was younger, I would probably want the ball more in my hands and try to prove myself. But I don't have to prove anything to anybody. The only thing I have to prove now is winning, and winning a championship.

"So regardless of the minutes I play, I'm fine with it because I'm just a weapon for Magnolia. Whenever they need me, when my name is called, I'm ready to go. I'm not worried about the minutes. I'm just here to make a run at this championship. That's all it is now."

Magnolia could have easily avoided this situation of having to fit together three stars in a crowded backcourt if it declined an offer that was apparently sent by the Aces management, but Victolero insists the opportunity to add a "two-way weapon" was too difficult to pass up.

"Having great guards isn't really taxing. What's important is how we'll play them, how we'll fit them into the system," he explained. "I didn't want to let it pass because it was a great chance, and we feel he'd be a big help to our team. That wasn't really an area where we needed help, but we didn't want to waste the opportunity that we'd eventually regret if we didn't take it."

Victolero, though, isn't closing the door on future deals happening for Magnolia.

"I told people that no one's a definite lock to stay. That's what (team governor Rene Pardo) told us last Saturday," said Victolero. "We're just told to stay ready no matter what happens. I can't really close the door because changes are the only thing that's permanent. We won't know what's going to happen. The important thing is we're happy that Chris is here and we feel that he's a big help to us."

For now, everyone's focused on working towards what has been the goal even before Banchero's arrival: a title-run.

"These guys here, they got championships and they know what it takes. I'm happy I get to learn from them and finally get the job done. Like I said, we have enough talent here to make a run at this championship now and for the future conferences so I'm extremely happy that I'm in this position," raved Banchero.