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Phoenix hunting for Serrano replacement

Encho Serrano formalizes his departure from the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters after declining a two-year contract extension. Photo courtesy of PBA

Phoenix Super LPG will be using the coming Philippine Basketball Association Annual Rookie Draft to shop for Encho Serrano’s replacement.

Fuel Masters team manager Paolo Bugia told Daily Tribune that Serrano opted not to sign with them despite being offered a two-year contract extension.

Reports have it that the former De La Salle University standout who was taken in the second round in the previous draft is set to see action for the Pampanga Giant Lanterns in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League – a team owned by his principal in Pampanga Gov. Dennis Pineda.

If his transfer materializes, it will be a reunion of sorts for Serrano and Pineda.

Two years ago, Serrano powered Pampanga, which was coached by Pineda, into the title of the 2021 National Basketball League-Pilipinas.

“We offered him a two-year deal, but he decided not to renew to join another league,” Bugia said in a telephone conversation.

“But we still have his playing rights so once he decides to return to the PBA, we can exercise our options with him.”

Bugia said they have decided to move on and focus on the coming Rookie Draft, where they own the seventh pick in the first round as well as two second-round choices.

Last year, the Fuel Masters didn’t have a first-round pick after acquiring Vic Manuel.

Still, they performed well as they tapped Tyler Tio and Serrano in the second round, who both turned out to be draft steals as they were able to power Phoenix in the post Matthew Wright era.

Bugia said they are planning to do the same strategy in drafting this year as they look for somebody who can fill the massive void created by Serrano’s departure.

“It’s still a long preseason and a lot of things could happen,” Bugia said.

“We’ve been seeing a lot of potential in the Draft this early, but we expect it to become deeper and we will definitely use our picks to stack up our roster with younger, highly-potential players.”

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