CHITO Victolero is giving Calvin Abueva the benefit of the doubt, aware he has changed for good and will be a major addition to the Magnolia Hotshots roster for the coming PBA season.
The champion mentor referred to the 33-year-old forward as a 'changed man,' who is worth to take the risk the Hotshots agreed to trade for him in exchange for guard Chris Banchero and their first and second round picks in next month's rookie draft.
The Hotshots in return also got the 2020 first round pick of the Fuel Masters aside from Abueva in the trade that was approved by the five-man PBA committee on Wednesday.
"Nakita naman natin siya sa bubble kung paano siya nag-focus sa game. Nakita ko kung paano siya nagbago, nag-focus, at naglaro (ng maayos). Kaya yung respeto ko sa kanya lalong tumaas," said Victolero.
The Magnolia coach was also blown away with how Abueva performed during the Philippine Cup bubble, posting averages of 15.4 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 5.2 assists in 17 games despite being inactive for 16 months to serve a league-imposed suspension.
The stats and the Fuel Masters' deep run in the playoffs, allowed Abueva to contend for the Best Player of the Conference award.
Although he lost in the BPC race, the native of Angeles City ended up being named part of the Elite Five.
"Imagine ang tagal niya hindi naglaro. Tapos ganun yung nilaro niya and then candidate pa siya sa BPC," Victolero noted. "Wala ka ng masasabi. Natanggap niya na ito ang gagawin ko (sa team) kaya lalo siyang gumaling, lalo siyang nag-improve as a player."
At the same time, Abueva's contribution goes beyond the numbers, stressed Victolero.
"May mga nagagawa siya sa games na wala sa stats, yung mga hustle plays, hard work. And yun ang maganda kay Calvin," he said. "Bukod sa stats na naitutulong niya, may iba pa siyang mahalagang mga bagay na nagagawa."
The Abueva trade also reunited him at Magnolia with close pal and former college teammate Ian Sangalang. The two along with former PBA player Ronald Pascual formed the so-called 'Pinatubo Trio' of San Sebastian, which won the 2009 NCAA men's basketball championship. (RG)