Magnolia is seriously looking at Nick Rakocevic to serve as its resident import after seeing his energy and enthusiasm in the Commissioner’s Cup of the Philippine Basketball Association.
Hotshots coach Chito Victolero said the 24-year-old Rakocevic has what it takes to serve as their long-term reinforcement after leading them to a strong start in the ongoing import-flavored conference.
With Rakocevic at the helm, the Hotshots have yet to lose in their first four games, making them favorites to challenge big guns like TNT Tropang Giga, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and San Miguel Beer for the title.
“He is tailor-fit on the things we’re doing for the team,” Victolero told Daily Tribune in a telephone conversation on Sunday.
Although he is playing hurt, the American-Serbian continued to dominate and was even more inspired to carry on when he received information that there is no damage in his knee.
A few weeks ago, reports about Rakocevic being replaced surfaced, but he remained focused on the task at hand, which is to help the Hotshots pile more victories.
“He’s easy to coach. He really wants to learn and everybody on the team likes him,” Victolero added.
“Nick told us that I was the one who inspires him, but, at the same time, I was also inspired by Nick’s performance. He’s been playing hurt but continues to go on and play.”
Victolero said the idea of bringing a young import like Rakocevic is for them to have a future resident reinforcement.
In the past, the old Purefoods franchise was able to bring in Ricardo Ratliffe for two seasons and wanted him to reinforce them in the long run.
He, however, accepted an offer in South Korea where he eventually became a naturalized player.
“Even when we had problems with our import, Vernon Macklin, we contacted Ricardo Ratliffe and asked if he can rejoin us to play as our import, but unfortunately, he wasn’t allowed by his South Korean team to play for us,” Victolero said.
“But we remained in contact with Ratliffe. Our plan for Nick is similar. We want him to become our future resident import.”
“Of course, we don’t want to be selfish if ever he will receive a good offer to play somewhere because he’s still young, but we want him to become our resident import, just like Justin Brownlee with Ginebra and Ratliffe, who played for us for two seasons.”
Rakocevic’s no-quit character had certainly impressed the Hotshots’ organization — and for a better reason.
Although he’s playing with a hurting knee, Rakocevic has averaged 31 points on a steady 50.6 percent shooting from the field while also pulling down 19.8 rebounds and blocks 1.8 attempts every game.