Pair of trades kick off Phoenix Fuel’s rebuilding process

Phoenix coach Koy Banal said the team’s string of trade transactions over a one-week period is part of the Fuel Masters’ effort to build a title-contending team in the coming years.

On Wednesday, Phoenix engaged in a 3-way trade with Star and GlobalPort.

Under the flurry of player movements approved by the Office of the Commissioner, GlobalPort pulled the trigger by sending guard Jonathan Uyloan and Fil-Am forward Keith Jensen to Star in exchange for young big man Yousef Taha and Ronald Pascual.

The Hotshots then shipped freshmen Mark Cruz and Norbert Torres to the Fuel Masters, while getting vastly improved playmaker RR Garcia and bruising forward Rodney Brondial in return.

“Rebuilding kasi kami and we want to change the identity of the team, though we’ll still keep some of our veterans in the team,” Banal told FOX Sports on Wednesday.

The Fuel Masters failed to make the Commissioner’s Cup playoffs right in their maiden conference since buying the Barako Bull Energy franchise a few months back.

Banal said the stocky Torres and pint-sized guard Cruz are 2 diamonds in the rough, who, given the right amount of playing time and confidence, could become the future stars of the pro league.

“With Norbert, wala na akong problema sa offense sa labas because he can shoot from the outside, much like a stretch 4,” explained Banal. “He’s young and he’s very eager to learn.”

As for the 5-foot-6 Cruz, currently the shortest PBA player, the Phoenix mentor said he actually “fell in love” with the former Letran Knight star.

“Nakita ko yung last game niya sa eliminations and we can see how well he plays. In love na in love ako sa laro niya,” said Banal, a former UAAP champion coach at Far Eastern University.

On the other hand, the 6-foot Uyloan brings in a a solid defensive spunk at the backcourt as well as a reliable ball handler for Phoenix.

Undrafted in 2009, Uyloan spent his his 1st 5 years with Rain or Shine as part of coach Yeng Guiao’s shock trooper, before being traded to GlobalPort this season.

Last week, Phoenix began its trade movement after shipping Mac Baracael, playmaker Eman Monfort and its 2018 2nd round pick to NLEX in exchange for Mark Borboran and rookie Simon Enciso. – By Richard Dy

Follow this writer on Twitter: @richava