It didn't take long for Jackson Corpuz to become comfortable with the Magnolia Hotshots who traded for him in December.
"I'm pretty happy. When I first came here, it felt like they've known me for a long time. I was immediately welcomed. They treated and welcomed me like family," he said in Filipino.
For a team that is admittedly a little undersized up front, snagging Corpuz in a one-for-one trade for Aldrech Ramos was a welcome win.
After going undrafted in 2014, Corpuz spend the last three years trying to carve a spot in the frontcourt for Columbian and successfully established himself as a persistent presence on defense.
Corpuz had a pretty productive 2019, where he bucked a mid-season knee injury to tally 10.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.0 assists on 47.7 percent shooting in 28 games.
That was pretty much why the Hotshots didn't hesitate trying to land the 6-foot-4 forward.
"We all know Jack. His energy, his aggressiveness, his rebounding, his defense are big. That's primarily what we want from him, the stuff that doesn't show up on the box score," coach Chito Victolero observed.
The trade to Magnolia felt like a personal victory to Corpuz, too, as he finally gets to play with his longtime idol in Marc Pingris.
"He's been my idol ever since I started playing basketball. When I first thought of basketball, he was the really the ideal player that I saw in my head," he said.
In fact, Corpuz considered the 38-year-old veteran his mentor and bared that he had been reaching out to Pingris even back when he was with the Dyip.
"When I was with Columbian, I'd text him often and ask for advice. He told me, 'I hope I'll be able to play with you sometime.' Now I'm here," Corpuz shared.
"Back when Jack was in his old team, I was like his older brother and we texted a lot. Now I teach him the stuff that I do, like post moves, so he can apply them in practice," said Pingris.
That relationship should blossom even more now with Pingris being able to monitor Corpuz on a regular basis.
"When I got traded, I felt really excited to practice, to see him, play one-on-one against him, learn from him. Now that I'm here, he'd tell me what to do, how my footwork should be, and that I should always persevere and play with heart," Corpuz continued.
"It's easy," Pingris said when asked how it would be like to help refining Corpuz's game even more. "Our games are alike. The rebounding and the defense is there. It's just more on learning the guards' play and the coach's system. He's very teachable. And he's also big for us because we need another rebounder."
Pingris lending a hand in Corpuz's development is also a boon for Magnolia, which can double-down on its strengths once the 31-year-old finds his niche with the Hotshots.
"We're a bit smaller compared to other teams, but of course we'll rely on our guards. They're huge for us because they're really skilled. Us big men, we'll just support through box-outs, defense, solid screens. We also have our running game to counter - if they're bigger than us, we're going to run them off the floor," said Pingris.
Corpuz, for his part, is just ready to take on the task.
"I can't relax, I can't slack off. I have to work extra," he said. "I'm not thinking about the pressure because I always talk to kuya Ping, coach Chito. Whatever my role is, I'll do my best."