Abueva appeals for understanding
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - August 30, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Widely known as a flopper and taunter, Alaska forward Calvin Abueva said yesterday he’s misunderstood by fans who think he’s nothing more than a disrespectful showboat on the court.

Abueva, 25, stands 6-1 1/2 but on defense, he’s tapped to take on bigger players which is why he often resorts to playacting if only to call attention to the referees. “I can take the contact but sometimes, it’s too much and the referees still let it go,” he said in Pilipino. “It’s not like there’s no contact. I admit I overact because I’m getting hit and the referees don’t call it. Basketball is a physical sport. It’s give and take. But there’s a limit to everything. I defend players in all positions. I fight through picks, many of them very solid. I get hurt out there. All I’m asking for is fair treatment. What they call against me, they should also call the other way.”

The former San Sebastian College NCAA MVP denied he verbally abuses players. “It’s hard playing defense especially against players who are bigger and stronger,” he said. “I try to throw them off their game. I think of ways to stop them. I know I’m at a disadvantage physically so I play with their minds. But I don’t taunt.”

Abueva said if he’s a tough guy on the court, he’s a softie off the court. “I’m different when I’m not playing,” he said. “Some people misunderstand me because I don’t socialize. I don’t go out of the house much. I like to stay home with my wife and kids. That’s how I am.” Abueva and his wife Salome Alejandra are blessed with three children, Clint, 5, Calvin James, 2 and Deandrei Calvin, four months old.

When fans boo him, Abueva said he is challenged to play even harder. “The more they boo, the more I get excited to play harder,” he said. “It’s like I want to show them what I can do. I know if I play my best and we beat their team, they’ll be quiet. For me, it’s just basketball. Nothing personal. If fans boo me, I respect them for that. But if I play harder, they should respect me for that, too. I try not to mind the people and just go hard and focus on playing.”

It wasn’t easy for Abueva to grow up without a father or even a father figure. His father Calvin Sweeney, a US Navyman from Brooklyn, left town when he was only a baby. Abueva was raised by his mother Evelyn and grandmother Siony in Angeles City where he was born. In 2009, an older half-sister Jovel, 29, managed to locate his father in Brooklyn through the internet. “We talked on the phone,” recalled Abueva. “He wanted me to pay for his plane ticket from New York to Manila. I told him I would pay for his ticket to watch me play but not for his plane ticket. That was the last I heard of him.” Like Jason Castro who was born to an American father Ronald William, Abueva uses his mother’s surname.

Abueva said he owes a lot to Pampanga Vice Gov. Dennis Pineda for bringing him to play for San Sebastian whose coach at the time was Ato Agustin. In his rookie season in 2009, the Stags won the NCAA crown. Abueva played four years with San Sebastian and would’ve been named MVP for the second straight season in 2012 if not for a suspension because of a punching incident. In his final year, Abueva led the NCAA in scoring (20.1), rebounding (16.4) and assists (6.5), a rare feat.

“It was a big adjustment for me to play in the PBA,” said Abueva who was picked second overall after JuneMar Fajardo in last year’s draft. “Playing in the NCAA was different. In the PBA, you can’t win with just one guy, you win as a team. Coach Luigi (Trillo) wants me to play within our team system. Maybe, when I’m in my third or fourth year in the PBA, I’ll be given more responsibilities but right now, it’s all about sticking to our gameplan. Luckily, we were able to make it to the semifinals in my first conference and we won the championship in my second. It doesn’t matter to me whether or not I’m the best player of the conference. Of course, if the opportunity is there, I’ll grab it like the Rookie of the Year or the MVP. My goal is to win championships, that’s my focus. I know fans are talking about the MVP award but I’m not thinking about it.”

Abueva said he would’ve liked to play for Gilas at the recent FIBA-Asia Championships but couldn’t. “I think I was only 50 percent,” he said. “My right knee was injured. I went to Beijing with some teammates for treatment. We were there for two weeks. I took herbal medicine and had acupuncture. We were treated by four doctors in a hospital. We didn’t do anything else in China. They drained dark, thick blood from my knee.”

After the Beijing trip, Abueva spent two weeks at the Impact camp of Joe Abunassar in Las Vegas then joined the Alaska group for a week vacationing in Los Angeles with his wife as a reward for capturing the Commissioner’s Cup trophy. He said the vacation impressed on him the value of the Alaska family tradition. The bonding brought the players and coaches even closer to each other. “When I ask for advice, I go to coach Luigi or coach Topex (Robinson) or the veterans like Eddie (Laure), Dondon (Hontiveros) and Gabby (Espinas),” he said. “My closest friends in the PBA are the guys who are also rookies like me and my teammates from NLex. I talk to guys like Woody Co and Emman Monfort. In our dugout, I listen to everyone. I’m just a rookie trying to learn as much as I can.”

Abueva said given a choice, he prefers to play the three position. “Sonny (Thoss) and Gabby play five and four so I alternate with Tony (de la Cruz) at three then there’s Cyrus (Baguio) at two and Jvee (Casio) at point guard,” he said. “I’m comfortable wherever coach Luigi puts me. I’ll do my best to help our team win. I just hope the fans realize I go out there trying to play hard because working hard is my only advantage.”



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