Antonio Hester says he 'lit up with joy' when he got Magnolia call

Antonio Hester says he ‘lit up with joy’ when he got Magnolia call

DURING one of the PBA Governors’ Cup matches of Terrafirma at the Philsports Arena, Antonio Hester paid a visit to his former teammates while on a break from his campaign with the Zamboanga Valientes in the Asean Basketball League.

Coming back to the PBA was the farthest in Hester’s mind at that time, so he was very happy when he received a call from Magnolia to become the team’s replacement import.

“To be honest, that wasn’t my mindset. I was here in Manila. We had some time off after a Singapore and Indonesia trip. I just decided to come and watch the game. The guys at Terrafirma, they are my brothers at the end of the day. I just came to show up,” said Hester, who played for the Dyip during the 2021 Governors’ Cup.

“I’m still trying to take it in. I’m very, very thankful to be here and have this opportunity,” said Hester.

Hester looked to be an excellent fit for Magnolia as shown in his first game with his new team, tallying 28 points and 12 rebounds in the 108-95 win over Phoenix Super LPG – the team’s first in the season-ending conference.

“Without Ian, we don’t have a post threat,” said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero, referring to Ian Sangalang who was still out due to an illness. “That’s why we got this guy to open up the floor and give a chance to our guards to get their shots. Our locals are playing good in the last three games. We just need a game-changer like Hes that can turn things around.”

“Medyo nag-aadjust pa siya. Good thing, ‘yung three days of practice, nagawa niya agad ‘yung offensive and defensive schemes namin. Maganda rin ‘yung depensa namin dahil nagagawa namin ‘yung full-court system, and he can control the boards,” said Victolero.

The bad start to their campaign prompted the coaching staff to look at other import options beyond original choice Eric McCree. They wanted someone that the team already knows and is in condition to come in midway through the conference.

Hester came to mind and the coaching staff asked around about Hester.

“We tried to find a big guy that can help us. Si Ian, hindi namin alam kung kailan makakabalik. We asked the coaches also na importante ‘yung condition at kakilala na namin. Pumasok sa isip namin si Hes and he is only here in Asia. We watched some games and tapes. We also watched him in his games with Valientes. Na-convince naman kami na we need this kind of import,” said Victolero.

“I asked Mark (Barroca) also. Meron din siyang sinabi tungkol sa kanya. A lot of positive things and words. I think he called Boss Junie (Navarro, Zamboanga team owner) also. We heard a lot of good things about him. I also called coach John (Cardel). We did our job and they were right. He has a good character and attitude,” said Victolero.

The 32-year-old Hester said he will do everything to live up to the coaches’ expectations at Magnolia and help turn their fortunes around after that slow start.

“That was one of the main things that we talked about. I was coming to Magnolia. I was excited because I know the kind of shooters they have in the team. I’m a pass-first guy. Knowing this team, I lit up with joy,” said Hester.

“Much love and respect to the Zamboanga Valientes for allowing me to play with Magnolia. I’m here ready to help them and do my best. They told me to just be me and enjoy the game,” said Hester.

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