UPON signing his new three-year pact with Alaska on Wednesday morning, Calvin Abueva immediately had flashbacks of his teen years playing in numerous small basketball leagues in his hometown of Porac, Pampanga.
“Masaya ang pakiramdam ko, siyempre," a beaming Abueva told Spin.ph shortly after practicing with Alaska at the Hoops gym along Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City. "Dati palaro-laro lang ako sa mga maliliit na liga sa amin pero ngayon, pro na ako.”
The three-year deal, which Alaska assistant team manager Dickie Bachmann said is worth around P8.7 million under the league's salary cap for rookies, represents a major leap for the former San Sebastian Stags star who used to be paid small sums while playing as a 'hugot' in small leagues in and around Pampanga.
The man known in the NCAA as the “Beast” for his power-playing style, said he intends to use his initial earnings to purchase a house of his own either in Mandaluyong or San Juan.
The 2011 NCAA MVP was actually one of several players from several parts of the province discovered, trained, and supported by Lubao Mayor Dennis Pineda, son of Pampanga Governor Lilia Pineda.
Through Pineda, the 6-1 guard and longtime teammates Ronald Pascual and this year’s NCAA MVP Ian Sangalang found their way to San Sebastian, where they gained fame as the 'Pinatubo trio' while turning the Stags into perennial championship contenders.
Abueva inked his three-year pact at Alaska’s Makati office in Corinthian Plaza on Wednesday morning, after which he went straight to the Hoops gym for his first practice with the Aces since his San Sebastian Stags lost to the Letran Knights in the sudden-death Final Four playoffs on Monday.
Alaska coach Luigi Trillo said he intends to break in the highly-touted college star slowly, planning to give him playing time in the 15 to 18-minute range as he adjusts to life in the PBA.
“He’s a very good one-on-one player. And we need him to do that, provided that he does it within the flow of the system,” Trillo said.
“But in time, he’ll get his minutes and I have no doubt, he will impose his might in the league. But for now, we expect him to defend and rebound,” added the youthful-looking Alaska coach.