JUST two tournaments into his rookie season and Calvin Abueva has become one of the most talked about players in the Philippine Basketball Association - an athletically gifted player with a colorful personality and boundless energy who has become a polarizing figure among fans.
With Abueva, it is either you hate him or love him. No middle ground.
But for Alaska owner Wilfred Uytengsu and coach Luigi Trillo, they prefer to see the player everybody loves to call 'The Beast' to tone down his antics and showmanship and focus more on the skills and moves that have made him one of the most exciting players in the league today.
"He’s a competitor. He has that in him," said Trillo, weeks after Abueva and the Aces completed a sweep of Barangay Ginebra in the Commissioner's Cup Finals. "But I would like him to focus more on basketball.”
“All his life, he’s done that (showmanship). He feeds off that. Obviously, for my part as his coach, I want him to focus more on the game,” the Aces coach added.
The former NCAA MVP often plays for the crowd and draws energy from them, while his rugged, gung-ho style of play has made him a target of cheap shots in his rookie year.
Yet the rookie has shown no signs of backing down. “It’s just his competitive juices,” said Trillo.
Still, both Trillo and Uytengsu agree that Abueva's attitude and on-court demeanor have improved greatly from his time with San Sebastian, when he got involved in skirmishes and thrown out of games.
“I think you’ve seen Calvin change quite a bit from his collegiate days to now his professional play,” said Uytengsu, his words echoed by Trillo.
“I’m very proud of Calvin. He has matured well,” said the Alaska coach. “In the PBA, You haven’t seen him just come out of nowhere and hit somebody. In the NCAA, he was thrown out a lot of times for being physical.”
Uytengsu, however, longs to see Abueva become more of a team player and embrace the 'We, Not Me' concept that has made Alaska one of the most successful franchises in league history.
“Without a doubt, Calvin is a great player, he’s a game changer. But I think he’ll realize that you can’t win it alone, you have to win it with teammates,” said Uytengsu.
“If Calvin likes Lebron, that’s good. I just think that Lebron is too much about Lebron,” he added. “And Alaska is about team first, that’s why we have the hashtag, 'We, Not Me.'
“Alaska will never be a one-man team.”
The outspoken Alaska owner, though, is confident that Abueva is bound to change for the better as he matures.
“We’re not trying to control Calvin. We’re just trying to say, ‘These are the things that we think will make you a better player,'” said Uytengsu.
“We want players to come to Alaska and bring humility to the team, to the game, to the sport,” he added. “Calvin is a young player, he will mature and he has a bright future ahead of him.”