PBA: New import Antonio Hester ‘lit up with joy’ upon getting Magnolia call-up
MANILA, Philippines—After suffering three straight losses in the PBA Governors’ Cup tournament, an ecstatic Antonio Hester powered the Hotshots to their first victory on Friday.
Hester, who replaced Erik McCree in Chito Victolero’s lineup after three games, said he was happy to help the squad recover from their early slump and earn a 108-95 win over Phoenix.
“That was one of the main things we talked about, to bring me in and try to turn things around. When I got the call that I was going to Magnolia, I was excited because I know the type of shooters that are in this team,” Hester said after finishing with a double-double of 28 points and 12 rebounds.
“Knowing this team, I lit up with joy. Much love and respect to Zamboanga Valientes, I appreciate them for allowing me to be a part of this Magnolia family.”
Hester is no stranger to the PBA, serving as Terrafirma’s import in the 2021 iteration of the season-ending conference.
He averaged 28.3 points, 12.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game for Johnedel Cardel’s Dyip, which finished with a lowly 2-9 record.
In his return to the league, Hester is dealt with the challenge of lighting a flame under the past Commissioners’ Cup second seed, which was in tenth place prior to Friday’s game.
Victolero quickly acknowledged what Hester brought to the table in their first win and said he impacted the team on both ends of the floor.
“There’s a lot of room for our guards to maneuver and create things when he is on the court. He also attracts a lot of defense so our guards have the options to shoot or create,” said the top coach.
Paul Lee was one of the beneficiaries of the team’s newfound ball rotation with their new import as he finished with 14 markers built on four triples.
Calvin Abueva, who has been trying to find his groove in the Governors’ Cup, was also complimented by Hester’s playing style inside, as he finished with a double-double of his own with 18 points and 10 boards.
However, Victolero said that the biggest fundamental Hester brought to the victory was his passing skills and defense.
“He also helps the team improve in the assists, lots of passes are happening with him. But the most important thing is our defense. It improved because of his rebounding. That’s the big factor,” said the veteran tactician.
Hester passed six of the team’s 29 assists, a huge number compared to the Fuel Masters’ 20 dimes.
The former Valientes player will try to continue to fill the shoes of McCree, who left the Hotshots with norms of 21.0 points, 13.33 rebounds and 2.67 assists a night.
Magnolia looks to build on its momentum-building win on Sunday when they face their storied rivals Ginebra at the same venue.
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