Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Calvin Abueva's NCAA days are numbered. That's a good thing.

By Jutt Sulit

“He’s outgrown this league.”

Those are strong, brave and candid words. Or was it just Coach Topex Robinson trying to hype up his best player who will soon play in the PBA? Or is it simply the best way to explain Calvin Abueva’s performance in the NCAA?

There isn’t much that Calvin has not accomplished in the NCAA. In his rookie year, San Sebastian bagged the championship. Last year, he brought home the MVP trophy. Now in his fourth and last year in the league, Abueva has not slowed down a bit.

Calvin has been nothing less than dominating. He has posted a double-double in nine of the ten games that they have played in season 88 so far. That includes two triple-doubles. That includes two 23-rebound games. Seriously, who the hell does that?

The only time those numbers happen is when, in your inter-barangay league, a 20-year-old kid is playing in the mosquito division. It’s not like that’s the case, right? Right?

With the way he plays and the stats he posts, Calvin makes the NCAA look like a videogame on ‘rookie’ difficulty and quarter minutes set to 12. In his worst game of the season, he managed to get 9 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. That was his worst game. Those numbers are others NCAA players’ career-highs already. Then again, that’s the point. Calvin isn’t just any other player.

It’s understandable why people love to hate on Abueva. He’s just too damn good. One bit of a problem, though – he wants you to hate him. He wants you to despise him. The more you jeer and heckle him, the more pumped up he gets. 

What haters don’t understand about Calvin is that his game is not about the numbers. It’s about the work he puts into it. The one time that I got to visit a San Sebastian practice, I became a witness to persistence. They were prepping for their JRU game. Calvin was down with the flu. It was a bad case. But it had no chance of keeping him away from the court. When he was not part of the group practicing the plays, he was either working with the medicine ball, doing push-ups or sit-ups. He worked his ass off. Right after the session, he rushed out of the gym telling Ronald Pascual, “’Maya na lang bro. May check-up pa ko eh.” Now that’s dedication right there.

When Calvin fails to register a double-double in a game, it makes me smile a little. Not because I’m against Baste or anything, but it reminds me that he can have ‘bad games’. It reminds me that basketball can still be a fair game after all. Ang daya kasi pag may Calvin Abueva ka. You have the league’s leading scorer, rebounder, and assists man. Then the basketball gods decided to give him Pascual and Ian Sangalang as his support crew. Un-freakin-fair.

It’s understandable, however, if people look back at that 2009 San Sebastian Championship team and say that it was Jimbo Aquino who led that team. Furthermore, I probably won’t argue with someone who says that until Calvin leads Baste to a championship this year, we can’t call him dominant.

Coach Topex’s statement might just be pure hokum. But the truth is, basketball at the college level just seems so easy for Abueva. From what we’ve all seen so far, it’s probably safe to say that there are three kinds of players in the NCAA right now – the good, the better, and The Beast. JS

Jutt Sulit is a former courtside reporter for the Mapua Cardinals. He also writes for SLAM Philippines and is part of the NCAA on AKTV production team. Follow @juttsulit on Twitter.

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