Magnolia head coach Chito Victolero feels the least surprised to see Calvin Abueva top the 2021 Honda PBA Philippine Cup Best Player of the Conference race.
The 6-foot-2 forward emerged as the lead candidate for the tournament’s top individual honor as of eliminations’ end with 35.36 statistical points.
“Actually, no,” said the youthful mentor moments after the Hotshots’ quarterfinal opener win over Rain or Shine, Sunday at the DHVSU Gym in Bacolor.
That’s because, for Victolero, the ‘Beast’ is simply carrying over his fine play from last year’s Clark bubble when he was still with Phoenix Super LPG.
Back then, Abueva had per-game averages of 15.4 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.7 steals. And he helped lead the Fuel Masters in a campaign that saw them move one win away from the Finals before bowing to TNT.
He then emerged as one of the favorites to win the BPC plum, although it eventually went to Stanley Pringle of champions Barangay Ginebra.
And that he had just returned from a lengthy 16-month banishment from the league makes it all the more impressive.
“Last year, alam naman natin kung gaano kaganda ‘yung nilaro ni Calvin, tinutuloy lang niya ngayong season,” offered the former Coach of the Year, whose side fell to Abueva and Co. in last year’s quarters.
By the end of this year’s Philippine Cup eliminations, Abueva had norms of 16.1 markers, 9.7 boards, 3.1 dimes. 1.3 blocks, and 1.0 steals. He played a major factor in Magnolia’s third-seed finish with an 8-3 record.
But what Victolero also appreciates a lot about the former BPC is his contributions beyond the points and the rebounds.
“Maganda lang is, he’s very consistent on both ends of the floor. The energy, the hustle; not only the rebounds and the score, but other aspects ng stats like 50-50 balls and everything,” said the cager-turned-coach.
So, should Abueva go on to bag the coveted award he first won in 2016 when he was still part of Alaska, Victolero said that he deserves it.
“Calvin, he just plays hard,” he said.
“And ang gusto lang naman niyan talaga is, magkaroon ng chance doon sa dulo. Kung sakaling mabigay sa kanya ‘yung blessing na ‘yun, deserve din naman ni Calvin ‘yun.”