Russel Escoto is making the most out of Ian Sangalang’s absence by helping fill in the hole left by their star big man in the PBA Governors’ Cup.
The seven-year pro was among those who shone Wednesday night, finishing with 10 points and eight rebounds as the Hotshots took down Rain or Shine, 112-97, to stretch their winning streak to three in the season-ending conference.
“Kailangan talaga punan ‘yung absence ni Ian,” he told reporters moments after the win at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.
“Lagi naman kami sinasabihan ni Coach na punan lang ‘yung absence ni Ian para matulungan ‘yung team,” he furthered.
It was easily Escoto’s best game in a Magnolia uniform but head coach Chito Victolero is hardly surprised as he’s in awe of his ward’s consistency.
Entering Wednesday’s affair, the Far Eastern University product was already averaging 6.2 points and 2.5 rebounds, with an assist to boot.
Quite a leap for someone who spent most of his time on the Hotshots bench since arriving via trade from Terrafirma back in June of 2021.
“Russel is playing well for the last four, five games. This is a big break for Russel. Wala si Ian, wala si Jackson [Corpuz],” said the champion mentor as the team continues to miss Sangalang for six games now.
“Russel is consistent right now. Nire-remind ko lang sa kanya na ‘wag siyang ma-satisfy kung ano ‘yung meron ngayon.
“He needs to reach kung anuman ‘yung goal niya. ‘Yun. Maganda. At nakakatulong siya sa team. Kahit paano, ‘yung hard work niya sa practice, nashe-share na niya,” added Victolero.
The 30-year-old Escoto, for his part, said that it’s all a byproduct of staying as ready as possible in the event Victolero calls his number.
“Ready naman ako lagi,” he said. “Ang mindset ko lang, ready lang kung kailan ako bubunutin ni Coach. Hindi ko lang talaga pinapabayaan sarili ko.
“Nung una lang siguro, nangangapa pa … Pero thankful pa rin na ‘yung tiwala ni Coach, binibigay niya pa rin sa akin. Trabaho lang talaga.”
The second game of each PBA gameday is live-streamed on SMART Sports.