CALVIN Abueva was picked second behind celebrated big man June Mar Fajardo in the last PBA rookie draft.
He didn't want to be second to Fajardo, again, on Wednesday night.
"Pinaghandaan ko talaga 'tong paghaharap namin," the Angeles City-born Alaska Milk rookie said of the first meeting between the top two picks overall in the last draft. "In-effortan ko talaga kasi ang laki niya, di ba?"
The former San Sebastian star debuted in the PBA against Petron on October 19, but the expected showdown of the top two picks did not happen as Fajardo was out with a groin injury. The Aces won that game 88-86, with Abueva coming up with 12 points and 16 rebounds.
But it was Abueva who was nowhere to be found in the first three quarters of the game against the Boosters on Wednesday night. Already nursing a second-degree sprain from his last game against Globalport, 'The Beast' struggled to stay within the Alaska offense and got caught up in his own bruising skirmishes with fellow Kapampangan Arwind Santos.
After finishing the first three quarters with just four points, Abueva came alive just as the Aces were gathering momentum on a rally that enabled them to battle back from the depths of a 21-point deficit, 42-63, with a little over two minutes left in the third quarter.
Alaska coach Luigi Trillo kept faith with his rookie, keeping him on the floor with Cyrus Baguio, JVee Casio, Sonny Thoss, and veteran Dondon Hontiveros when the Aces made their run in the final quarter by outscoring the bewildered Boosters, 33-6, during that span.
The rookie didn't disappoint as he contributed eight points during that surge, none bigger than a baseline jumper which he kept clanking in the first three quarters but swished with the game on the line, giving Alaska the lead for good, 72-71, inside the final two minutes.
"Noong first half ang sama ng laro ko sabi," said Abueva. "Sabi ni coach bumawi ka na lang (sa second half). Kaya nung pagdating ng second half pinagbutihan ko na talaga."
He still finished with a near-double double of 12 points and nine rebounds to go with two assists, a steal, a block, and a promise to be on 'Beast' mode whenever he meets Fajardo on the floor.
"Pagbubutihan ko pa lalo," he vowed.