JUSTIN Chua has always played a reserve role in his entire stint with the Ateneo Blue Eagles.
But everything’s expected to change now as the 6-foot-6 center made himself available for the coming PBA rookie draft.
Dioceldo Sy, owner of Blackwater Sports of which Chua is one of the key players, believes the vastly improved big man has a shot at becoming a first-round pick in the November 3 proceedings.
“Hindi lang yan nababanggit ngayon pero I am sure a lot of teams are keeping Justin as one of the cards they hold close to their chests,” Sy told to Spin.ph.
“Justin’s gonna be a strong force in the PBA. He is very consistent. Hindi flashy play pero very effective,” said the longtime basketball team owner. “He can deliver points and rebounds when you need it.”
Sy knows where he’s coming from.
The Blackwater Sports owner saw Chua develop right before his very eyes from a mere back-up of Rabeh Al-Hussaini and later of Gregory Slaughter with Ateneo to a potential star player during the Finals of the PBA D-League Foundation Cup.
The Elite pulled off a two-game upset of powerhouse NLEX Road Warriors, highlighted by Chua winning his personal match-up with Slaughter.
As expected, the former Chiang Kai Shek high school alumnus played down his success of holding down his former Ateneo teammate.
“Wala po sa akin 'yun. Basta ako po naglaro lang. Ipinakita ko kakayahan ko. Masaya na ko nun. Hindi ko po iniisip yung ganti o magpasikat,” said Chua, who averaged just 5.3 points and 3.0 rebounds in 11 minutes of play as a back-up big man in the Blue Eagles’ run to five straight UAAP men’s championships.
“Pero syempre andun na rin `yung halong ipinapakita ko na kaya kong sumabay kahit kanino. Gusto ko lang i-prove na hindi lang ako pang back-up,” he said. “Yun kasi nangyari sa akin buong college.”
During the Foundation Cup Finals, Chua churned out numbers of 17.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.0 block shots as he completely outshone Slaughter who was held to averages of just 10 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks the whole series.
“Ginawa ko lang naman po `yung dapat. Sabi ni coach Leo (Isaac) bantayan ko. Kaya ibinigay ko ang lahat. Nagkataon kabisado ko po galaw niya (Slaugther),” the San Juan native said of Slaughter, who was a teammate at Ateneo for two years.
“Alam ko po kasi na pag pinuwersa ko si Greg na lumaro sa labas, kaya ko siya kontrolin. Pag napabayaan ko po siya sa ilalim kasi mahirap na siyang pigilan,” added Chua, who plays the four and five spots but boasts of an effective perimeter shooting.
And although he’s not being mentioned in the same breath as Slaughter and fellow draftees Ian Sangalang, Raymund Almazan, Terrence Romeo, or Jeric Teng, Chua said he will be more than just happy playing in the pro league.
“Kahit anong round po ako makuha, wala sa aking problema. Basta ang mahalaga, makalaro po ako sa PBA at mabigyan ako ng pagkakataon na maipakita ko ang kakayahan ko, gaya ng binigay sa akin ng Blackwater,” he said.
Asked about his thoughts in the coming draft that is laden with a lot of quality big men, Chua thinks the 2013 rookie batch will be one of those to be remembered for a long time.
“Marami pong magagaling rito. Kaya po hindi pupuwedeng mag-relax. Kailangan go hard ka lagi sa ensayo at preparasyon, ngayon at after na ako ay ma-draft,” he said.
Asked if Chua can be a reliable defender against some of the big men in the PBA including Slaughter, Sy responded in the affirmative without batting an eyelash.
“Obviously, that’s why we got him, because we know he can take care of Slaughter in the game,” said the president of Ever Bilena.