ROOKIE sensation Calvin Abueva just shrugged off the growing perception that he’s become the target of nasty physical plays in the pro league, to the extent he refused the suggestion for him to start wearing a mouthpiece in Alaska's next game.
As a pro, the former NCAA MVP said he has to get used to the tough plays against him in his rookie season.
“Yung mga banggaan kasama naman sa laro yan. Basta huwag lang sinasadya ok lang yun,” said the Alaska freshman, who is perhaps one of the most banged-up players early in the PBA's 38th season.
The last of those series of vicious plays - courtesy of Air21's Rob Reyes - landed him in the hospital for three days after he aggravated a nasal viral infection that caused him to miss the Aces’ game against Barangay Ginebra.
“OK na rin yung injury ko. Medyo madali na rin `yung paghinga ko,” said the 24-year-old native of Pampanga.
Wednesday night he returned to active duty and produced a double-double of 20 points and 18 rebounds in the Aces’ 88-85 win over the Meralco Bolts, ending Alaska’s four-game losing streak in the Philippine Cup.
However, Abueva was again at the receiving end of an elbow courtesy of fellow rookie Cliff Hodge when he tried to distract the Meralco forward while he attempted a game-tying three-pointer in Meralco’s final offensive play .
Alaska coach Luigi Trillo vehemently protested the move.
“I just felt Hodge extended his elbow, and as a coach, you have to fight for questions. It was seen that he did elbow (Abueva),” said the young mentor.
But on second thoughts, Trillo said playing tough against players of Abueva’s caliber are only expected.
“Guys who hustle get that. It’s not only Calvin, it’s Hodge, those other guys,” said Trillo. “Like commissioner (Chito Salud) said, there’s a 'welcoming thing' for the rookies.
“But for us you admire the way he plays. There’s a misconception that he’s a dirty player. He’s not dirty, he just wants to play. And he goes after every rebound because that’s the way he plays.”
And because he’s always been at the receiving end of physical plays, someone suggested that Abueva better start using a mouthpiece that has become a fad among NBA players.
Abueva said he would none of those things.
“Mas lalo lang akong mahihirapan nun,” he added.
That only shows how tough this rookie is.