TAIPEI - One of the most polarizing figures in Philippine basketball, Calvin Abueva has found himself savoring the collective embrace of his countrymen while playing for Gilas Pilipinas.
And he's loving it.
"Oo, mas nakakataba ng utak," he said when asked about the support he and the rest of Gilas players get from hundreds of Taipei-based Pinoys in the 37th Jones Cup. "Mas nakaka-focus ka sa game, nagagawa mo pinagagawa ng coach. Pag di mo kasi nagawa, nakakahiya sa mga kababayan natin."
In his first international stint with the national team, Abueva has proven to be the most consistent Gilas player three games into the Jones Cup, coming off the bench in two matches and starting in one - each time displaying the infectious enthusiasm and energy he has come to be known for.
He has no plan of slowing down. if it was down to him, Abueva has no plan to sit out any game here even if head coach Tab Baldwin is applying a rotation policy for the 12-man lineup he names to certain matches, taking injuries and rest as the main consideration.
"Sinabi ko kay coach na I’m doing my best here, ayoko din umupo sa game na ito, sa lahat ng game, importante kasi lahat," said the former PBA Rookie of the Year and NCAA MVP from Angeles City, Pampanga.
Abueva's inspired performances are no longer new, of course, to Gilas assistant coach Alex Compton, who is certain of the kind of impact his player at Alaska can have in games and knows how much Abueva wanted to play for the national team.
"You're hardpressed to find a player in this who tournament, and these are national teams, who have his energy. Look at all the teams, who plays like that?" said Compton. "I haven't seen anyone and I've been scouting (games).
"He is a very unique individual and his energy is fantastic. And you know, he' getting better with different skills as well. This is a totally different setting from the PBA and he is soaking (everything) up."
Baldwin, Compton and another assistant Jong Uichico want to give all the players in their 16-man pool here equal parts action and competition ahead of the Fiba Asia championship in Changsha, China three weeks from now, but they may find it hard restraining 'The Beast.'
Rest is not an option for him. Injured or not, he is raring to play.
"Masarap maglaro sa Gilas, mag-represent country. One hundred perfect ako maski may sakit, maski injured, buhos talaga ako dito. Pipilitin ko maglaro maski may masakit sa akin."