THEY have never been considered as court rivals, and definitely, will not be matched up against each other.
But by sharing the stage in the coming PBA Philippine Cup Finals, the spotlight inevitably falls on San Miguel’s June Mar Fajardo and Alaska’s Calvin Abueva.
The 2012 top rookie pick vs. the no. 2 overall selection. The reigning league MVP against the former Rookie of the Year. The ‘Kracken’ vs. ‘The Beast.’ The Top 2 in the statistical race for the 'Best Player' trophy going at each other.
The All-Filipino Finals best-of-seven series marks the first time the two celebrated players will be battling each other for all the marbles, three years since heading the talent-laden rookie class of the 2012-2013 season.
While he does look forward to meeting the 6-foot-10 Fajardo, Abueva refused to be carried away by the expected hype that is certain to surround them in the title playoff.
“Wala naman tayong iniisip kung No. 1 siya or No. 2 ako (sa draft). Ang daming ganyan,” said Abueva during the pre-finals press conference on Monday. “Basta ang habol naming ang manalo ng championship.”
Fajardo also played down his first finals meeting against the undersized power forward out of San Sebastian.
“It’s about the team naman. Hindi naman tungkol sa amin lang ni Calvin,” said Fajardo.
There’s one thing going for Fajardo though. Unlike Abueva, the big man from Cebu has yet to win his first championship in Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league.
He said the hungry factor is definitely a big motivation for him.
“Isa sa mga motivation ko 'yun. Si Calvin naka-champion na, ako wala pa. Tapos same year pa kami na draft,” said the 25-year-old center.
Abueva however, said he still longs for another championship two years after getting his breakthrough title with the Aces during the 2013 Commissioner’s Cup.
“Lahat ng paglalaro pinag-tatrabahuhan namin. Kaya stay focused kami, stay humble,” said the enigmatic Alaska player. “Kung laro, laro. Finals na ito. Ibang level na ito.”
June Mar also stressed the Beermen are ready for the finals especially as far as Abueva’s antics are concerned.
“Sa court alam naman natin na hustle player 'yan. Maraming napipikon dahil sa way niyang maglaro,” said Fajardo. “Pero 'yun ang style niya, kaya respetuhin natin 'yun. Hindi kami magpapaapekto.”
But the third year pro said he and Abueva are cordial to each other, saying, “Nagbabatian naman kami niyan. Off court mabait na tao naman 'yan, pala-kaibigan.”
As the top leaders for the Best Player of the Conference award, Fajardo said it's one prestigious honor he’d rather have Abueva win, on one condition of course.
“Kanya na `yung BPC, akin na `yung championship,” he said with a big laugh.