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Phoenix Super LPG expressed its appreciation towards Chris Banchero despite the latter’s decision to leave the team before the resumption of the PBA Governors’ Cup to sign with Meralco as an unrestricted free agent.

Banchero declined a three-year contract to remain with the Fuel Masters to sign a similar deal with the Bolts, who will now have one of the league’s best two-way guards following the loss of John Pinto to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.

The Fuel Masters said not even their offer, which they hinted was something substantial, could sway Banchero from staying with them.

“After exhausting all efforts to retain him including a three-year contract offer that any player would envy, sadly he will no longer represent the Phoenix team,” Phoenix said shortly after Meralco announced Banchero’s signing.

“We would like to thank him for his time and hard work while playing for Phoenix, and wish him nothing but the best in his next journey,” the Fuel Masters added.

His loss leaves Phoenix without one of its best players in the early goings of the Governors’ Cup which is set to resume on Feb. 11.

Phoenix still has ace scorer Matthew Wright at one of the backcourt spots but Banchero’s defensive abilities and offensive contributions will be sorely missed by coach Topex Robinson.

One silver lining is perhaps the chance for rookie guard Aljun Melecio to gain significant minutes for the Fuel Masters.

Melecio, a second round draft choice last year and averaging 7.0 points, 1.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists in the halted conference, showed some promise before the break with his play in the last two games against Ginebra and NLEX.

He had 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting with three assists and two steals in a 125-121 overtime loss to Ginebra on Dec. 19 before producing 12 points with a 5-of-8 clip, two rebounds and two steals during Phoenix’s 102-93 Christmas Day triumph over NLEX.

Source: Manila Bulletin (