In the eyes of San Miguel coach Bobby Parks, Leo Avenido is an easy choice to be the MVP of the ASEAN Basketball League this season.
The former PBA player has enjoyed a career resurgence in the regional league, averaging 14.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game in a season where Parks said he played like an "import" in crucial stretches.
Surprisingly, no Filipino has won the MVP in the league’s three-year existence. Attaporn Lertmalaiporn was the inaugural winner in the 2009-2010 season while the Indonesia Warriors’ Mario Wuysang won the ABL's highest individual award last season.
Avenido could change that this season. He is one of three candidates for the award, the others being Al Vergara of the Philippine Patriots and Wuysang of the Warriors, who play the Beermen in a best-of-three series starting on Saturday at the Ynares Arena in Pasig City.
“All along, I feel that he’s the MVP this year but I’m not sure if he’s going to get it,” Parks said. “But whether he gets it or not, he had an MVP year not only on offense but on defense.”
The former Far Eastern University star played his best basketball during a stretch when the Beermen struggled while trying to find the right combination of imports.
On March 18, he was a veritable scoring machine against the Bangkok Cobras, hitting 33 points on 12-for-20 shooting. He also scored 20 or more points in two other games this season.
“Early in the year, we had problems with imports in getting the right combination. During that time, Leo played like an import for us,” Parks said.
Avenido’s scoring dropped with the arrival of imports Nick Fazekas and Duke Crews and Seattle-based Fil-Italian point guard Chris Banchero in the latter part of the season.
But he made his presence felt in the semifinal playoff against the Westports Malaysia Dragons, averaging 17.5 points in the Beermen's two victories.
“There have been times during the season that Leo had games not typical of him. But we stuck with him because I know what he brings to the table. We have full confidence in what Leo can bring to the team,” said Parks.
Avenido has a chance to crown a dream season with an MVP and an ABL title, but the Beermen star's focus in not on the individual award but on the team honor.
“Okey lang manalo ng MVP pero hindi ko na iniisip ‘yun. Mas maganda kapag championship dahil team ang makikinabang,” Avenido said.