VIC Manuel sees Barkley Ebona blossoming into Alaska’s new frontcourt power following his departure from the franchise.
The 33-year-old Manuel openly endorsed the sophomore big man as a potential star for the Aces.
“Siya na yung next doon (Alaska),” casually said the pride of Licab, Nueva Ecija, who was traded a week ago by Alaska to Phoenix. “Magaling yung bata. May papalit na kay Vic Manuel doon.”
Picked fourth overall by the Aces in the 2019 draft, the 6-foot-6 alum of Far Eastern University learned from the best in his first year with the team, having been under Alaska big man coach and PBA great Danny Ildefonso.
At the same time, the 25-year-old Ebona developed a strong bond with Manuel in the short time they were together with the team.
Learning from both Ildefonso and Manuel eventually paid off for the Cebuano big man, who normed 7.2 points and 3.3 rebounds in his short rookie season during the Philippine Cup bubble where the Aces made it to the playoffs.
He registered a career-best 24 points on a near-perfect 10-of-11 shooting in Alaska’s 120-82 beating of Blackwater.
By the end of the season, Ebona became a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year, which went to Meralco’s Aaron Black. Nonetheless, he was named member of the All-Rookie Team.
Manuel sees a lot of potential in Ebona, who he said, felt a bit bad that they’re no longer playing together in one team.
“Si Ebona naiyak yan,” said a smiling Manuel. “Nag-message sa akin huwag ko raw siyang iwan.”
So will it mean Ebona is going to follow him at Phoenix?
“Hindi naman, hindi naman,” was Manuel’s quick reply.