'Smart' Justin Chua finally getting chance to show what he can do - thanks to college coach Black
Justin Chua has started both games for Meralco in the PBA Commissioner's Cup after starting in just four games his entire pro career. Jerome Ascano

AS Justin Chua obliged for a short chat with scribes at the Big Dome hall after Meralco’s 91-84 win over NLEX on Sunday night, teammate Chris Newsome came over for some good-natured ribbing.

“It's your first interview ever!” the Filpino-American playmaker said with a smile.

“I'm shy,” Chua replied to his fellow Ateneo alumni.

On the court, Chua was the opposite as he showed admirale confidence in taking midrange shots all-game long as he formed a potent high-low frontline combination with import Alex Stepheson.

“Justin is out there for two reasons,” Bolts coach Norman Black began. “He's a very smart player, he doesn't back down, and he doesn't hurt you. What I mean by that is he doesn't make very many mental mistakes, offensively or defensively. As far as execution is concerned, he's very sound, and that helps us a great deal.”

“The second reason he's out there is because he can hit open shots,” he added. “He missed a couple down the stretch, but for the most part, he can make an open jump shot, he can score and finish around the basket. And that's what we really need this conference.”

[See Rough night at the office for Alex Stepheson]

“Alex's man is just gonna stay on him, he's not gonna leave him,” he continued. “They gotta take that four-man to help on Alex, so that's gonna leave our four-man open, and right now, Justin has been doing a really good job of helping out his team.”

With how he complements Stepheson, the 6-foot-6 Chua has now started the Bolts’ first two games this conference – after starting in just four games his entire career.

He has his former coach at Ateneo to thank for the growing confidence.

“Siyempre, nagpapasalamat ako kay coach Norman dahil binigyan niya ako ng chance with his team,” the fourth-year pro said. “Nung last time, galing kasi ako sa ACL injury. Wala pa ako sa rhythm. I just worked my ass out, kept training, at nabigyan lang ng chance ni coach Norman. Sana maibalik ko yung kabaitan niya sa akin.”

The 27-year-old Chua scored all his six points in the final frame, sparking a 19-4 run that gave Meralco the needed cushion to cruise to the win.

“Hopefully ma-sustain ko 'to,” Chua said. “Since college, si coach malaki tiwala niya sa akin. Sobrang grateful ako. Basta every game, kailangan kong ayusin. Gagawin ko lang yung best ko always and try to help our big men out.”

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