MAGNOLIA coach Chito Victolero is just being patient, but believes in time, Ian Sangalang could be the dominant force the team has been looking for all along.
The Hotshots made the playoffs in all three conferences last season, but never got past the semifinals in the absence of a legitimate big man to patrol the middle.
But Victolero sees Sangalang having a breakout season this year and finally covering the gaping hole that has been the Hotshots’ biggest drawback in their past campaigns.
“Ian has always been consistent since pa nung previous conference,” said Victolero of the 6-foot-7 center-forward from Lubao, Pampanga.
“Madami pang igagaling yang bata na yan. He’s only 26-years-old and I’m very happy that he’s been stepping up (for us).”
The former NCAA MVP from San Sebastian did show he can his hold his own against the PBA’s elite big men after he took on both Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar during the Hotshots’ last game in the Philippine Cup just before the holiday break opposite Barangay Ginebra. Sangalang had a game-high 25 points and 11 rebounds as he evened things up with Slaughter, who also finished with a double-double of 24 and 13 rebounds.
But without a solid backup inside with veterans Rafi Reavis and Marc Pingris still nursing injuries, the Hotshots failed to keep in step with the Kings and lost, 89-78, as Slaughter got plenty of help from fellow bigs Aguilar, Jervy Cruz, and Kevin Ferrer.
In the two games Magnolia played, Sangalang was its leading inside threat, averaging 19.0 points and 11.0 rebounds.
For the meantime, the Hotshots will have to make do with the no. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft to man the slot.
Victolero still considers Kyle Pascual as a project in the making after trading for him as part of the Allein Maliksi deal, while Aldrech Ramos is really more of a stretch four wingman who rarely posts up inside.
Yet, he sees a lot of positives despite losing to one of the teams which boasts of a towering frontline.
“We’ll just try to wait for the other guys na maging 100 percent. We’ll wait for Ping, Rafi (Reavis) and Jio (Jalalon), and also with Paul (Lee),” said the Magnolia coach.
Pingris and Lee already saw action for the Hotshots, although both are not yet 100 percent healthy after undergoing respective procedures during the offseason. Reavis and Jalalon are expected to be back in the team’s active roster when Magnolia resumes its campaign on Dec. 10 against KIA.
“I just want to complete this team para makita ko kung puwede naming gawin with a complete lineup,” said Victolero. “Then let’s see kung ano yung puwede naming ibigay.”