WATCHING Calvin Abueva soar and glide on the hardwood, you'd think he was born precisely to play basketball.
But unknown to most people, it was another sport - and not basketball - which caught the PBA super rookie's fancy back in his grade-school years in Balibago in Angeles City.
"Volleyball ang una kong nilaro, first love ko parang ganoon," said the Alaska star.
Long before he learned how to shoot and rebound, Abueva said he was introduced to the art of serving and spiking by his Physical Education teacher during his elementary years.
'The Beast' became good enough at the sport to make it to a selection that represented Sta. Maria Elementary School in the Angeles City Amateur Athletic Association, an inter-school sports competition in Pampanga.
"Elementary pa ako noon eh," recalled Abueva. "Iba-ibang school ang nakalaban namin."
The team could only place second in the tournament, Abueva recalled. And since he was no longer eligible to compete the following year, he found himself shifting to basketball.
"Noon time na 'yun nag-second lang kami. Tapos di na rin ako puwede maglaro (the next year) kasi overage na ako kaya ayun, lumipat na lang ako sa basketball," he said.
Still, Abueva said the skills he developed in volleyball have helped him stand out in basketball.
The former San Sebastian star credited his impressive vertical leap and his impeccable timing in rebounding to his beginnings in a sport that is now enjoying renewed popularity.
"Syempre nagpapasalamat ako kasi 'yung talon at saka 'yung timing, natutuhan ko (sa volleyball)," he said.
Still, volleyball's loss turned to be be basketball's gain.