IT could have easily been the showdown between the top two overall picks in this year’s PBA Rookie Draft.
Sadly, only one of them will be at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum court by game time.
Calvin Abueva, the No. 2 overall draft selection, makes his highly anticipated debut for Alaska Friday when the Aces collide with a Petron Blaze team that will be without top pick June Mar Fajardo.
The Aces, a team that went through a major revamp during the offseason, unveil the high-leaping and celebrated NCAA superstar in their 5:15 p.m. Philippine Cup encounter against the Boosters.
Both teams carry identical 1-2 slates.
Alaska coach Luigi Trillo however, cautioned people to temper their expectations on the Aces’ prized rookie acquisition considering Abueva, nicknamed `The Beast,’ only joined the team full-time on Wednesday.
Abueva, a native of Porac, Pampanga, is coming off a stint with San Sebastian, where he played out his final year on a sad note after the Stags were eliminated by the Letran Knights during their sudden-death Final Four playoff last Monday.
Trillo stressed he intends to break Abueva, a former NCAA MVP, into the flow of Alaska's offense slowly, especially since he is still trying to feel his way through the Aces’ patented triangle offense.
“I do expect him to defend and grab rebounds. I know he’s good at one-on-one, but he’ll have to do it within the flow of the system. We’ll feel it through if we see the need to put him on the floor longer than say 15 or 18 minutes,” added the young Alaska coach.
The Aces finally broke into the win column Sunday with a 102-86 demolition of Barako Bull after opening the season with back-to-back losses against San Mig Coffee and Meralco.
On the other hand, the Boosters will face the Aces without the 6-foot-9 Fajardo, who went under the knife on Thursday morning at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan due to a swollen scrotum.
The Petron rookie was accidentally hit in his private part during the Boosters’ game against San Mig Coffee Sunday.
“The operation went well,” said San Miguel Corp. sports director Noli Eala through his Twitter account @NoliEala: “Successful surgery for Junmar. Thank God. Wishing him speedy recovery. #Prayers”
In the absence of Fajardo, Petron coach Olsen Racela will be relying heavily on veteran big men Dorian Pena and Danny Ildefonso.
The Cebuano big man actually had a breakout game against the Mixers, scoring 16 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in a close 84-90 defeat.
Trillo said even without Fajardo in the middle, the Boosters remain a formidable opponent to contend with considering the talent depth that they have.
“They (Boosters) are deep, so to me, even without June Mar, they still have the strongest lineup in the league. They are strong especially when they push the ball, the way they did against Barako Bull,” added Trillo.
The Alaska coach welcomes the return of forward Gabby Espinas to the active roster after being confined to the hospital over the weekend due to urinary tract infection (UTI).
In the 7:30 p.m. main game, Barangay Ginebra (2-1) tries to get back on the winning track when it clashes with skidding Barako Bull (1-2).
The Gin Kings are coming off a tough 88-95 loss to the Meralco Bolts last weekend in the league’s first road game in Digos City.
The Energy Cola, meanwhile, lost their last two games against the Boosters, 89-98 and the Aces, 86-102, respectively.