TAIPEI - This is one time when national coach Tab Baldwin is glad to be proven wrong.
Baldwin admitted Calvin Abueva was not part of his initial wishlist for Gilas Pilipinas 3.0 - not because he didn't think 'The Beast' deserved to be part of the national team, but because he felt leaving out Abueva this year would fan his motivation to play for flag and country.
"I wouldn’t have taken Calvin this year, he wasn’t in original pool of 26," Baldwin admitted. "I think Calvin has some growing up to do, some learning to do."
That may be true but as it turned out, Baldwin realized Abueva doesn't need any more motivation than what he has now.
The controversial Alaska forward has been adapting well to the national team environment off the court and has been a boundless source of energy on it, as seen from his Jones Cup debut in a 77-69 Gilas win over host Chinese-Taipei on Sunday night.
Baldwin admitted that initially he "felt that leaving him out would be a good for him this year because he wants it so bad."
"Perhaps that lesson (on hunger) would not have been needed to be learned, as I am seeing now. But at the time, I felt we had a lot of talent with my original pool and it would have been good to make him hungry. But I can see that this is a passion for him. It has all worked out for the best and I am happy on being proven wrong."
More than his 15 points and five rebounds, Baldwin was pleased with the hustle the former NCAA MVP showed against the Taiwanese, including one instance where 'The Beast' broke up one play at the height of a second-half rally by Taipei and ended up saving the ball from going out of bounds.
With Alaska coach Alex Compton providing the guidance and senior players like Asi Taulava putting him under their wings, Abueva has also become comfortable in the national team.
"He’s done a lot, he's adapted to the Gilas environment very well. There’s no question that (Alaska coach) Alex Compton's influence on him while he is here is very positive and very strong," Baldwin said.
"But a lot of credit has to go to Calvin himself. We’ve had some good chats and taken it upon himself to adapt to the Gilas environment. I don’t mind revealing this now because Calvin and I have talked. But he is a quality kid and a very good player as we can see."