TWO players who stand head and shoulders above the rest in the NCAA this season square off in what promises to be a scintillating mano-a-mano on Saturday.
San Sebastian's Calvin Abueva and Letran star Kevin Alas also go into the showdown at The Arena in San Juan at the top of their games, Abueva just coming off another triple-double performance against Mapua on Monday and Alas fresh from a career-best night against the St. Benilde Blazers.
Alas said he is looking forward to the showdown, motivated no doubt by the chance to measure himself against the No. 2 pick in the last PBA rookie draft who has an opportunity to write history by becoming the first man in the league to emerge from a season as the leader in scoring, assists and rebounds.
"I might guard him," said the 20-year-old Alas, who has been tapped by Smart Gilas Pilipinas II for its cadet team.
If that happens, Alas will surely have his hands full trying to contain Abueva, the 'Beast' whose rare combination of speed, brute strength and athleticism has made him one of the most exciting players to lace up in the country's oldest collegiate league.
Against the Cardinals on Monday, the do-it-all 6-1 guard posted his second triple-double of the week and a league-best fourth of the season when he came away with 21 points, a game-high 20 rebounds and 10 assists in a 77-62 thrashing of the Cardinals.
Abueva has ruled himself out of the race for a second straight league MVP owing to a one-game ban he incurred early in the campaign, but he said his motivation right now is to lead the Stags to the title.
"Mas gusto kong mag-champion ngayon," he said.
Alas, however, is looking forward to get in his licks, too, his confidence surely sky-high after scoring a career-high 35 points - his second 30-plus effort of the week - in the Knights' 97-83 romp against the Blazers.
Alas' output was the highest in the league since Jose Rizal’s John Wilson scored 48 in a game three years ago. It was also the highest by a Letran player since RJ Jazul erupted for 37 points four seasons back.
The two shared ACCEL/3XVI NCAA Press Corps Players of the Week honors, but it is Alas who has the bigger motivation to go for the win with the Knights still outside the magic circle of four that would make the playoffs.