LARRY Fonacier has long been known as one of the best clutch shooters in the pro league.
But by turning himself from a pure shooter into a mean two-way player, the former Ateneo star has become one of the most valuable pieces in a successful Talk 'N Text team alongside Jayson Castro and Ranidel de Ocampo.
“He’s been steady. He’s a shooter, but he’s developed his defensive game,” said coach Jong Uichico of Fonacier, the 2006 Rookie of the Year who has earned his spurs as one of the team’s top defenders this season.
Fonacier has distinguished himself in the past as a clutch shooter for Talk “N Text, hitting some of the biggest shots in franchise history that helped him earn a Finals MVP award during the successful run in the 2011 Philippine Cup.
But now more than just a triggerman, the 6-foot-2 Fonacier is showing another facet of his game by playing solid defense for Talk `N Text, often taking on the best players of the opposite team.
The transformation has the 10-year veteran getting a lot of playing minutes, averaging 30 per game this season, second most in the team next to Castro.
“He’s playing a lot of minutes because we’re not afraid that he’ll get beaten defensively,” Uichico stressed.
Fonacier’s preparation off the court has been a big help in the former Ateneo stalwart’s transformation.
“He studies the game, so he’s mentally focused,” Uichico said of Fonacier.
And then, there’s the health factor.
Except for foot and back injuries which forced the 33-year-old Gilas Pilipinas standout to beg off from the Fiba World Cup campaign last year, Fonacier has kept himself fit and healthy for the most part of his pro career, which earned him a reputation as one of the league’s ironmen.
“We don’t rely too much on him to make plays, so that helps him in being healthy,” Uichico said. “He’s playing off the ball, not necessarily on the ball, so malaking bagay ‘yun to keep his health.”
Proof of his durability? A banged-up Fonacier opted to suit up for the team to start the season-ending tournament just when Castro and De Ocampo chose to rest following a grueling best-of-seven Finals against Rain or Shine in the Commissioner’s Cup, which the Tropang Texters won.