ALASKA coach Luigi Trillo said seeing his prized rookie Calvin Abueva finish a strong second in the race for the Best Player of the Conference at the end of the elimination round came as a surprise.
Trillo said Abueva has been playing basketball non-stop for a year already considering he never took a break after plunging into the PBA Philippine Cup shortly after the San Sebastian College got eliminated from Finals contention this past NCAA season.
“I didn’t expect that,” Trillo told Spin.ph after the team’s practice at the Hoops Center. “But it’s really nice for him to finish No. 2 since he’s been worn out playing basketball and still be able to be consistent and play at a high level.”
Abueva, picked second overall by the Aces during last August’s rookie draft, registered 32.7 statistical points, just slightly behind Petron Blaze forward Arwind Santos’ 35.9 SPs in a tight race for the Best Player of the Conference.
The 6-1 former NCAA MVP finished among the statistical leaders despite playing only 10 of the Aces' 14 games in the eliminations, having sat out the early stages of the campaign to finish his commitment with the Stags.
The Alaska mentor said Abueva’s strong showing though makes him an easy target for opposing defenses, more so in the playoffs beginning with the Aces' best-of-three quarterfinals series against the Meralco Bolts on Wednesday.
“Calvin’s definitely a marked man now in the playoffs. You can see that because of his stats. He’s gonna be the hunted,” added Trillo.
The 24-year-old, one-time NCAA MVP, is just one of two players to average in double-double figures at the end of the eliminations after submitting 14.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per contest.