MANILA, Philippines -- After earning most of the praise for leading Phoenix Super LPG to victory, veteran point guard Chris Banchero was quick to credit two of the team's unsung heroes.
Banchero had fired 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting on top of seven assists to power the Fuel Masters to a 110-99 triumph over the Blackwater Bossing on Saturday, giving them a 2-0 record early in the 2021 PBA Governors' Cup.
He earned Player of the Game honors for his efforts but Banchero pointed out after the game that the young pair of Simon Camacho and Sean Manganti were both crucial to their win as well.
"If I could just say one thing, I thought Simon and Sean played amazing tonight, their energy. Especially Simon -- he's brand new to the team, and I know how it can be, and the way he played was amazing," said Banchero.
"I'm really happy for him. I hope he continues to build off this," he added.
Phoenix had acquired Manganti just last month, in the trade wherein they sent Vic Manuel and Michael Calisaan in exchange for Sean Anthony. The Fuel Masters also got a 2021 second round draft pick. Camacho, meanwhile, was a free agent pick-up as Phoenix Super LPG signed him after an MVP campaign in the inaugural FilBasket tournament.
Though both new to the team, neither player showed nerves against Blackwater. Manganti made six of his seven shots to finish with 17 points, and Camacho was 5-of-7 from the field for 10 points, while adding four rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.
Phoenix Super LPG coach Topex Robinson heaped praise on the two players for grabbing the opportunity afforded to them.
"They really played well. They're young, they wanna prove their worth," said Robinson. "Simon and Sean really are helping us a lot right now."
Robinson was especially proud of Camacho, who was a late pick in the 2019 PBA Rookie Draft but left unsigned. He plied his trade in leagues outside the PBA and caught the Fuel Masters' attention with his strong play for Medical Depot in the FilBasket.
"When I saw Simon, I saw a lot of myself. Just waiting for that opportunity. He's always gonna slug it out. Sabi niya nga, gusto niya lang mabigyan ng opportunity, and he really proved his worth," said Robinson.
"He's gonna make mistakes down the line, and what's important is our veterans are really providing support. I think that's huge for us," he added.
"Simon is really a (breath) of fresh air for us. He had less preparation than the rest, but he really picked it up because again, he has the support of everybody on this team."
Manganti, meanwhile, was nearly assigned to Phoenix Super LPG's 3x3 team but Robinson wanted the lanky forward in their 5-on-5 squad. Manganti had been taken eighth overall by NorthPort in the 2019 PBA Rookie Draft, but only played sparingly for the Batang Pier before getting traded.
"The moment he (Manganti) got here, he wants to prove his worth. He had a chance with NorthPort, and he just wants to rub off that opportunity. And again, he just wants to belong in the PBA, and he will do his best," said Robinson.
"He complements our starters, and he plays well, he jells well in the team. And 'yung depensa niya -- I guess what he learned from Adamson and Coach Franz (Pumaren), he's bringing it here, his energy. Same as Simon Camacho, both of them came from Coach Franz, that's why they really help us a lot on defense," he added.