For Phoenix Super LPG swingman Matthew Wright, winning the Best Player of the Conference (BPC) in the recently-concluded 2020 PBA Philippine Cup would cement his status as one of the best in the PBA.
Wright's body of work inside the bubble in Clark, Pampanga is more than enough to earn that distinction. He put out the most prolific statistical output thus far in his blossoming pro career, posting career-bests in points (21.1), rebounds (4.4), assists (5.5), field goal accuracy (44.6%), and three-point shooting (39.4).
"It will be a huge deal. It's one of the more prestigious awards in the PBA. All of the great PBA players in the past have all won those or won multiple BPC awards. Me trying to be considered one of the greats and try to leave a legacy in the PBA. That's what I'm trying to do in my career," said Wright, who was in Atlanta, Georgia at the time of the interview.
"Winning it will be huge. It will cement, I feel like it will really cement my arrival in the PBA and it will show that anything is possible," added Wright.
More importantly, the award would be validation to the trust given to him by his mother Ofelia Agustin. Wright said that it was her who pushed him to pursue a career in Asia's oldest pro league.
"She is always my inspiration when it comes to basketball. I still remember my first MVP award as a kid. Like 20 years ago. I dedicated it to my mom so if I do get one in the PBA, get the next one, I'll dedicate it to her," he explained.
Staying inside the bubble for 65 straight days was pretty much a taxing affair not only physically but mentally as well. Being away from one's family that long took a toll on these players, including Wright.
"You really just have to love the game of basketball in order to do something crazy like that. Like stay in the bubble for three months and play basketball. Eat. Sleep. Play basketball," recalled Wright.
However, his desire to get better reigned supreme as the days went by.
"You butt heads with players, with coaches sometimes. You miss your family, you just want to get out of the bubble. You just want to eat different food. There's a lot of distractions. But if you just love the game, you just focus on trying to get better. That was my goal. I just wanted to be better than the day before. Make more shots in practice than the day before. Lead my team better than the game before. So just everything was just on a per-game basis for me."
A change of scenery brought about by the arrival of rookie head coach Topex Robinson also gave the team a much-needed reboot, mentioned Wright.
Robinson, who joined the team as an assistant in 2017, was promoted to the position after the team fired predecessor Louie Alas last September.
Despite being a rookie coach in the PBA, Robinson has years of experience in the collegiate ranks. After his first conference with the team, Wright calls his coach one of the best in the league.
"I just want people to know how much of our success is just because of his mentality and positive attitude. We didn't make much changes between last conference and this conference. The only difference we made was a coaching change. And it was just a change in mentality," posited Wright.
"He didn't do anything different but just gave us more confidence. I think a lot of our success is because of coach Topex Robinson. He's always going to keep us grounded and he's going to keep us motivated every single game. Every practice. That's where we are going to draw our momentum from. From also our coach."
The Fil-Canadian believes that Robinson's approach helped the team become more free flowing. More importantly, Robinson gave Wright the green light to unleash his offensive game, which forced him to take a more mature approach to the game.
Wright, who is a shooting guard, also added a kink to his game by becoming more of a facilitator. Adding more passing, he explained, was not a big change, as he started off as a point guard in his younger days in Toronto.
"[Robinson] gave me the keys to the car and he said, 'We will go wherever you want to go'. I had to make a lot of adjustments, I had to get closer with some of the players. Like become a better leader, better teammate. Not just statistically this season, but I'm finally starting to understand the PBA game better," recalled Wright.
His change did not only come within the court, but off it, having opened up more to his teammates, referees, league officials, and the press.
"I think this is what I think is my best season. Not just because of stats and awards and us being successful but I have matured a lot as a player."