A player’s worst nightmare can turn into a dream in just a few seconds.
Just ask Justin Chua as he recalled the time when he hesitated answering a call from a rival PBA team official thinking he was about to get traded – only to get good news.
Fresh off his breakout season with Phoenix in the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup bubble, the veteran big man heard his phone ring and saw it was then TNT team manager Gabby Cui unexpectedly on the other line.
Justin Chua on memorable phone call with Gabby Cui
“Hindi ko sinagot yung unang tawag kasi akala ko mate-trade na ako,” Chua shared with a chuckle on SPIN Zoom In. “After yun ng conference eh.”
The 33-year-old Chua is no stranger to trades. Just a few days after San Mig Super Coffee chose him as the 10th overall pick in the 2013 PBA Draft, Chua saw himself get shipped to GlobalPort along with Leo Najorda for the rights to the Batang Pier’s first-round pick that year in Isaac Holstein.
Since then, Chua has had a journeyman career, making stops at San Miguel, Barako Bull, Meralco, and TNT, before settling at Phoenix and NLEX, respectively.
But before he got to his current home with the Road Warriors, Chua thought he was going to get traded to TNT – no thanks to Cui’s call.
“Parang kaka-eliminate lang ata namin nun. I was at home. Sabi ko, ‘ayaw ko sagutin…pero sige na nga.’”
Chua heaved a sigh of relief after Cui, the then concurrent Gilas Pilipinas team manager, bared he was being invited to train with the national pool for the Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers.
Good thing Cui called him a second time.
“Since before I got first invited sa Gilas, I’ve always been telling people na willing ako tumulong talaga kahit practice player lang” the 6-foot-6 Chua insisted. “I just want to help the national team.”
“Nung tinawagan ako before, walang dalawang isip na kahit hindi naman sure yun, ‘di ba?” he added.
Chua has worn the national colors thrice so far, making the Final 12 once when he played under coach Mark Dickel for a Fiba Asia Cup qualifying window in Indonesia.
“First Gilas stint ko, sobrang thankful ako nun. It was a great experience also playing with the young guys.
“Sobrang fulfilling for me kasi dream ko talaga mag-Gilas.”
So when it’s Gilas - or when he thinks it is - on the other line, expect Chua to answer his phone right away.