THE two players who finished ahead of Calvin Abueva in the last Philippine Cup best player race feel the sensational Alaska rookie has what it takes to achieve a unique rookie-MVP feat.
Jason Castro and Ranidel de Ocampo of three-time All-Filipino champion Talk `N Text are one in saying that Abueva, the popular freshman who finished just behind them in the last Best Player of the Conference race, is a legitimate contender for the league’s top yearend individual award.
Castro admitted he felt threatened by Abueva in the run-up to the Best Player of the Conference race.
“Oo naman (he’s a threat), kasi sa nilalaro niya talagang maganda,” the former Philippine Christian University standout said of his fellow Capampangan. “Mga hustle plays niya ang bumubuhay sa Alaska.”
“Pwede talaga siyang mag Rookie of the Year at MVP, pero kailangan lang talagang ma-develop niya `yung decision-making sa end game,” he added, recalling how Abueva’s turnovers late in the Aces’ semifinals series with the Tropang Texters cost Alaska the win.
In the 38-year history of Asia’s first pro league, only Benjie Paras had won both the Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in the same season, achieving the feat in 1989.
De Ocampo, named the Finals MVP of the Philippine Cup and second to Castro in the Best Player race, admitted he was amazed by Abueva's brand of play in only his rookie season.
“Hanga ako sa kanya, kasi double-double siya lagi. Talagang halimaw siya lumaro. `The Beast’ talaga,” De Ocampo said.
The sweet-shooting big man from Tanza, Cavite said the former NCAA MVP with the San Sebastian Stags has already exceeded his expectations because Abueva remained a force for the Aces even during the playoffs.
“Lagpas na `yung ipinapakita niya sa expectations ko kasi kahit sa playoffs talagang effective siya,” he added. “Isa siya sa mga dahilan kung bakit nahirapan kami sa Alaska,` yung energy sa kanya nanggaling.”
De Ocampo said the Commissioner's Cup, which features imports of unlimited height, will be a test for the 6-1 1/2 rookie, but he feels Abueva will still find a way to shine.
“Tignan natin sa next conference. Pero tingin ko ganoon pa rin ang performance niya. Kasi hindi siya nauubusan ng energy eh,” said De Ocampo.