Phoenix will bring back El Destructor for 2017 Governors' Cup
Paul Lintag on Jun 07, 2017 10:05 AM
Looking to get over its playoff hump, Phoenix will have El Destructor back in harness in the 2017 Governors' Cup.
Since entering the league as Phoenix in last year's Commissioner's Cup, the Fuel Masters have made good of themselves as a franchise.
After missing the playoffs in that initial tournament, Phoenix has now made it to three straight postseasons although that first playoff win remains elusive.
But still, for a team that is only playing its first full season in the PBA this year, being a fixture in the quarterfinals is a pretty big deal.
And as the team prepares to take that next step in its development, Phoenix will be bringing a familiar force just in time for the season-ending Governors' Cup set to tip off next month.
That's right, El Destructor is going to be back for the Fuel Masters, for good this time.
"Naka-pirma na siya," head coach Ariel Vanguardia said of import Eugene Phelps after Phoenix got the boot Tuesday at the hands of the San Miguel Beermen in the 2017 Commissioner's Cup quarterfinals.
"I think we'll start our camp by June 19, he'll be here on the 16th," he added.
Phelps, who steered the Fuel Masters to their first playoff appearance in the 2016 Governors' Cup, played one game for Phoenix this conference before leaving for Puerto Rico to honor a prior committment.
That's over and done with so El Destructor is flying back to the Philippines.
"Locked and loaded na. Naka-pirma na siya, naka-commit na," Vanguardia said of his prolific import who averaged 36.1 points, 19.8 rebounds, and 4.0 assists in last year's Governors' Cup.
In his lone PBA game so far this year, Phelps dropped 53 points and grabbe 21 rebounds as Phoenix took a double-overtime win over Blackwater back in March.
Aside from El Destructor, one factor that has Vanguardia practically salivating over the potential of his team is the continued development of guys like Matthew Wright and Gelo Alolino.
Both players were acquired by the Fuel Masters in the 2016 Draft and Vanguardia is not ashamed to call their haul as the best among all 12 teams.
"We got the best draft. I think Gelo has proven that in the first round or kung ano mang round yun, he's the best dun sa mga yun, even better than the first pick," Vanguardia said.
"Then Matt's proven he can be our future," he added of Wright who already made the lineup of Gilas Pilipinas and has a SEABA gold medal to show for it too.
Ultimately, despite a first playoff victory continuing to be elusive, Vanguardia is confident his team is on the right track.
"We're very positive na that foundation, ma-carry kami sa future, especially sa third conference. Playoff team tayo eh, kaya natin," he said.
"Lahat ng franchises dumadaan sa ganitong phase and we just need to get over that hump," Vanguardia added.
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