'Enemy' from within
Ian Sangalang is not just in line to win the league's highest honor, but he is also in a position to deny longtime Stags teammate Calvin Abueva a shot at an unprecedented feat. Jerome Ascano

HE may be getting the least attention among San Sebastian’s celebrated 'Pinatubo trio,' but Ian Sangalang is grudgingly stepping out of the shadows and stealing the spotlight.

With reigning MVP Calvin Abueva having a rough, up-and-down season and Ronald Pascual's guns turning ice cold every now and then, the gangling slotman has emerged as the anchor of the Stags' quest to regain the NCAA basketball championship.

The 6-foot-6 slotman has quietly emerged from the shadows of his more celebrated teammates, producing consistent numbers for the Stags this season to establish himself as arguably the best big man in the country's oldest collegiate league.

So consistent is Sangalang that he currently leads the league in scoring (20 ppg) and field goals made per game (8.4), ranks third in rebounds (12.5), and is tied for 10th in both blocks (1.1) and steals (1.1).

With Abueva disqualified from the MVP race following his ejection from the Stags’ second-round game against Lyceum, Sangalang is not only in line to win the league's highest honor, but he is also set to deny his longtime teammate a shot at an unprecedented feat.

Sangalang is one of only two players (the other is Letran star Kevin Alas) capable of denying Abueva the chance to become the first player to lead any of the country's major cage leagues in scoring, rebounding and assists in the course of a season.

The 20-year-old doesn't exactly relish the thought of denying Abueva the MVP award, or the statistical hat-trick for that matter, but he made it known that he won't pass up the chance, either.

“Nakakalungkot (na mawala kay Abueva ang MVP) siyempre, pero ngayong ako na ang nabigyan ng opportunity, hindi pwedeng hindi ko alagaan yun,” said Sangalang, the league's reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

However, he made it clear that the battle for individual honors won't get in the way of the Stags' quest to regain a title they last won in 2009.

“Hindi ko iniisip ang MVP,” Sangalang said. “Mas gusto ko pa rin mag-champion. Bonus na lang siguro (yung award).”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos