EVER the showman, Alaska rookie Calvin Abueva loves playing for fans - and drawing energy from them.
He's in the right place right now.
The Alaska freshman sensation said on Saturday he is thrilled to be playing in the Sinulog Cup invitational tournament in Cebu City, which happens to have some of the most rabid basketball fans in this part of the world.
The energy from the crowd and the enthusiasm to pay it back has no doubt reflected in the performance of Abueva, who has scored 18 points each in two victories over Ginebra and the Cebu Ninos that put Alaska on the brink of a second straight title in Cebu this season.
The Aces also won a pocket preseason tournament in the Queen City of the South prior to the PBA Philippine Cup.
"Masarap sa pakiramdam na maglaro sa Cebu," said the former NCAA MVP, "tapos panalo pa ng dalawang sunod. Sana manalo pa sa next game para happy kami."
Censured by Commissioner Chito Salud recently after being caught on video playing in a non-league game without the Aces and league's consent, Abueva explained that he finds joy in performing before fans who can't afford to buy tickets and watch him play in the pro league.
He feels the same way for Cebu fans who are a long way away from the games, Abueva said.
"Syempre masaya ako na makapagpakita sa Cebu," the No. 2 pick overall in this year's PBA rookie draft said. "At masaya na nakakapagbigay ng konting kasiyahan sa kanila, lalo mas malayo sila at di sila basta-basta makakapanood ng PBA ng live."
Judging from the applause he gets inside the rocking Cebu Coliseum, the fans have surely loved him back. The reception he gets during games is second only to Dondon Hontiveros, a beloved Cebuano star and Abueva's teammate with the Uytengsu franchise.
Abueva should be easy to love among fans down south who are known to appreciate no-nonsense, all-out play from their homegrown heroes - which happens to be exactly the brand of basketball the Aces rookie plays.
In return, Abueva soaks in the adulation.
"Yung welcome nila, pareho lang din sa Maynila pero masaya kasi madami-dami rin ang nagpapa-picture, may fans din ako sa Cebu," Abueva said. With reports from Jonas Panerio