VIC Manuel said his desire to win a championship also weighed in his decision to ask for a trade from former team Alaska.
Manuel is scheduled to attend his first practice with Phoenix Super LPG on Monday after he was traded by Alaska for Brian Heruela and a future first-round pick, ending a six-year stint with the Aces.
The trade, which also included a swap of first-round picks in the March 14 rookie draft, took more than a month since it Manuel went public that he wanted out of Alaska.
The former Alaska star said all he wanted was a new beginning for his career.
“Inexplain ko na kay coach Jeff (Cariaso) nung nag-meeting kaming dalawa nung lumabas ang issue,” Manuel told The Chasedown. “Sabi ko sa kanya, gusto ko ng bagong simula sa career ko. Baka sa ibang team ko mahanap ‘yung hinahanap ko. Hindi naman siya nagdalawang isip.”
“Pero talagang medyo matagal dahil inexplain niya sa akin na hindi magiging ganun kadali ‘yung trade sa akin. Etong week, natapos din. Tumawag siya sa akin na sinabi niya na na-approve na.”
The 33-year-old Manuel admitted he longs for that elusive first PBA championship of his career, something that he was not able to do with the Aces.
“Medyo sa Alaska, parang almost seven years na ako naglalaro, hindi ako makakuha ng championship. Lagi kaming nabibitin. Medyo mabigat pakiramdam mo na laging kapos. Siguro kaya nag-decide na rin ako magpa-trade para ma-refresh ko sarili ko at isip ko. Mabigay ko naman serbisyo ko sa iba,” Manuel said.
“Almost seven years, binigay ko sarili ko sa Alaska. Talagang binuhos ko sa kanila lahat pero short pa rin,” he added.
As he waited for the trade to happen, Manuel admitted he had second thoughts on whether the move will actually push through.
“Actually, medyo nagdadalawang isip din ako. Napamahal din sa akin ang Alaska tsaka mga teammates ko. Puro bago ‘yung players. Parang na-excited din ako na makasama sila ng matagal," he said.
"Pero at the same time, hindi rin ako nag-worry. Lagi ko rin kinakausap si Boss Danny (Espiritu) tapos naga-update din siya sa akin sa trade na mangyayari. Naghihintay lang ako,” said Manuel.
Manuel is now reunited with Phoenix coach Topex Robinson, who was an assistant coach of Alaska when he was still with the Aces, as well as Chris Banchero, who joined the Fuel Masters by way of the Calvin Abueva trade.
Manuel said he is so excited with what’s in store for him with the Fuel Masters that he can't wait for the new season to begin.
The Philippine School of Business Administration product said he is willing to do everything in order to win a championship for the Fuel Masters, including accepting a limited role with the squad if that is what it would take.
“Willing ako mag-sacrifice ng role. Kung puwede ako maging role player sa Phoenix, gagawin ko kung ano ‘yung dapat at hindi makakabigat sa team. Siguro kailangang tulungan ko rin sila," said the 32-year old forward.
"‘Yun ang magiging role ko sa kanila. Hindi katulad sa Alaska na parang sa akin dumadating ‘yung bola. Dito sa Phoenix, maraming puwedeng humawak, maraming puwedeng umiskor anytime,” said Manuel.
But even with his goal of winning a championship, Manuel is realistic enough to say that a title won’t happen overnight.
“Parang ang hirap pa rin sabihin ng ganun,” said Manuel, referring to his new team’s title chances. “Katulad nga ng sabi ko, kailangan ko ma-apply sarili ko sa sistema nila. Baka mas madali sa amin kung maganda ang chemistry ng team.
"Malakas naman ang lineup ng Phoenix pero kung hindi ka rin maglalaro as a team, wala ring mangyayari. Hindi din talaga masasabi na title contender kasi ‘yung ibang teams, nagpapalakas din,” said Manuel.