By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter

FOLLOWING weeks of much discussion involving one of their key players who has since been traded, the Alaska Aces are now moving on and focusing on preparing to compete in the next season of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

Speaking on the Power & Play with Noli Eala program on Saturday, Alaska coach Jeff Cariaso shared that with want-away player Vic Manuel shipped out to a new team, they have now stepped up their preparation and are excited for what lies ahead.

“The last six weeks were about lengthy conversations with teams interested in Vic. It was challenging, but we think we got a fair deal. We are now getting the ball rolling as far as preparations,” said Mr. Cariaso.

Mr. Manuel in January asked Alaska to trade him over what he felt was Aces’ lack of interest in re-signing him after his contract lapsed last year.

But Alaska said the player was part of their plans and intent on signing him.

Discussions ensued after with both parties eventually agreeing that going their separate ways was the best option.

The Aces found a trading partner in Phoenix Super LPG, sending last week Mr. Manuel and their first (seventh overall) and second (19th overall) round picks in this year’s rookie draft in exchange for guard Brian Heruela and the Phoenix’s first-round pick (sixth overall) in the March 14 rookie draft.

The Fuel Masters also gave the Aces their second-round pick (16th overall) in this year’s draft and first-round pick for Season 47.

With the deal behind them, Mr. Cariaso said they now turn their attention to having their “rebuilding” team ready for the next PBA season, targeted to begin next month.

“Yeah, we can say we are rebuilding. We have players who are in the middle of their careers and young veterans,” the Alaska coach said.

“There are going to be opportunities and the players are excited. With Vic moving on, our big guys like Rodney (Brondial) and Abu (Tratter) are looking to step up,” he added.

Apart from Mr. Manuel, Alaska also lost veteran big man Sonny Thoss to retirement, with the team deciding to let go of some players as well.

Alaska, however, picked up a couple of free agents in Yousef Taha and Gab Banal, which it hopes to help the team in what it wants to do.

“Yousef gives us added height against teams like San Miguel (with June Mar Fajardo) and Ginebra (with Greg Slaughter), while Gab is a talented player who was just not given the opportunity in the past,” the Alaska coach said.

Mr. Cariaso shared as well that they hope to do well in the draft and add pieces who can deliver for them.

“There are a lot of big names and so many applicants in this year’s draft. The trade of Vic moved us to number six, allowing us to get a quality player. We are looking at six players as a potential pick,” said Mr. Cariaso while also highlighting that they intend to use the first-round pick to get a big man.

They are looking at Santi Santillan (La Salle), Larry Muyang (Letran), and Ben Adamos (Perpetual Help) to help cushion the loss of Messrs. Manuel and Thoss.  

Mr. Cariaso said that moving forward, they will try to form a team able to play on both ends of the court.

“We want to defend with the same passion on offense. That’s the way we can beat the talented teams. We may not be as talented as others, but we want to have grit and to step up together.”