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    COLUMN: Banchero reveals what swayed transfer from Phoenix to Meralco

    Feb 10, 2022
    New Meralco guard Chris Banchero says leaving Phoenix was a difficult decision to make.
    PHOTO: Jerome Ascano
    spin zone

    CHICAGO - There were offers from Taiwan and Japan, courtships that could have swayed Chris Bancero to play overseas had the "timing" been right.

    Phoenix, his former mother team, desperately wanted to keep him, too, and offered a pot "worth in excess of P800,000 a month," sources told SPIN.ph.

    Banchero tossed and turned in bed for a few sleepless nights as he mulled the multiple options that fell on his gifted hands.

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      In the end, the Meralco Bolts felt like the perfect landing spot.

      "What lured me away was the chance to play for a championship. My family and I looked at both the rosters and believed Meralco's roster, with my impact at the point guard position, can compete for a title every conference for the next three years," the fleet-footed Filipino-Italian told me over the phone.

      "Not saying we could not do that at Phoenix, but it would have been an uphill battle," he added.

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      Still, ditching the Super LPG jersey was no cakewalk.

      'Extremely difficult'

      "It was extremely difficult. I really enjoyed my time at Phoenix and have nothing but respect for the organization. It's hard to leave a franchise that believes in you."

      Banchero credited Phoenix coach Topex Robinson as the main instrument that facilitated his breakout performance in this soon-to-restart Governor's Cup conference where he is lighting the PBA like a Christmas tree, averaging 18 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game while shooting 56 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3.

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      "Coach Topex knew what I'm capable of and saw how dedicated I am to the game. He just told me to go out there and be me. When a coach gives you that type of confidence and allows you to play through mistakes, I believe it's a recipe for success."

      As he gazed at the big hole on his roster now, one that would be difficult for an independent, budget-challenged team to replace, coach Topex understood Banchero's plight and subsequent flight.

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      "HE WAS PROFESSIONAL IN GOING ABOUT THE FREE AGENCY PROCESS. HE CANT PASS ON A BETTER SALARY FOR HIS FAMILY AND I RESPECT THAT," SAID ROBINSON IN A SEPARATE INTERVIEW."

      Like his fellow coaches toiling the sidelines for the less-moneyed franchises, Robinson is getting crushed by the reality of how the PBA's free agency rules and loose salary cap protocols benefit only the well-funded teams.

      Anyway, given that Bolts boss Norman Black is similarly wired like the fast-rising Robinson, Banchero's task of transitioning from one coach to another shouldn't be a problem.

      CB, however, will sorely miss two former peers at Phoenix - Jason Perkins and the Japan B-League-bound Matthew Wright.

      "Matthew draws so much attention that it makes the game easy for me. Not just Matt but Perk as well. I believe Perk is one of the best players in the PBA and doesn't get enough credit. He can guard 1-5, is a great shooter and can pass the ball."

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        And while he leaves behind those two weapons, he looks forward to playing alongside another one at Meralco, Cliff Hodge.

        "He is one of my closest friends. We have talked about this (playing with each other) for years and it finally came to fruition."

        Also coming true is Meralco's quest of acquiring a top playmaker after John Pinto exercised his own unrestricted free agency right and left for Ginebra, the glamour team of the SMC group.

        Whatever money Meralco threw at Banchero will be well worth it.

        The 6-foot-1, 175-pound playmaker immediately provides the Bolts with more scoring punch while helping smoothen the flow of ball distribution.

        You can call that a boost of vitamin CB.

        At age 33, the 5th pick in the 2014 draft is a cagey veteran who can mentor Meralco's fleet of young guards that include the very promising Aaron Black.

        That's why Banchrero was labeled a prized catch.

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        And Meralco can thank its lucky stars, and deep pockets, for having caught him.

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        New Meralco guard Chris Banchero says leaving Phoenix was a difficult decision to make.
        PHOTO: Jerome Ascano
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