MANILA, Philippines – Dondon Hontiveros is happy to witness forward Calvin Abueva's growth into a leader for Philippine national team Gilas Pilipinas.
Abueva, 29, has long been known for his aggressive and fiery attitude on the court, along with his notoriously fearless approach to challenging opponents' patience – often through teasing antics and mind games.
But right before the season started, Alaska head coach Alex Compton got to Abueva.
"At the start of our season with Alaska, in the offseason, binigyan na ng responsibility ni coach Alex (Compton) si Calvin and nakita ko 'yung maturity niya (he was given responsibility by coach Alex and I saw his maturity)," Hontiveros, the former Gilas skipper, shared of his Alaska teammate when he visited Gilas practice on Tuesday, April 11.
"Pero nandoon pa rin siyempre 'yung mga mannerisms niya before. But I guess napansin niyo rin na nagbago na si Calvin. It's good for us, it's good for Gilas also. Hopefully magtuloy-tuloy 'yung pagiging leader."
(But he still has the old mannerisms. But I guess you already noticed that Calvin has changed. It's good for us, it's good for Gilas also. Hopefully he continues being a leader.)
Abueva, Alaska's very own energizer bunny, was noticeably vocal and active during Tuesday night's practice, constantly talking to his teammates. But more than his words, it was Abueva's body language that sent all the right messages.
Many times he bounded strong to the hoop, leaped high to catch an alley-oop from Jio Jalalon, and fiercely contested his teammates when he defended them. All of that helped keep the atmosphere upbeat through the night.
It can be recalled that Marc Pingris, a Gilas veteran remembered for the way he fought tooth-and-nail while wearing the Pilipinas uniform for many years, declared that Abueva is the "heart" of the national team now.
"Na-feel na namin 'yan two years ago (We already felt that two years ago)," said Hontiveros, who battled alongside Abueva in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship, where Gilas won silver.
Abueva did the country proud then when he never let any of Asia's bigger men bully him, happily taking on the role of enforcer.
"Without Ping, the more na mas na-feel niya 'yung responsibility na being that leader na magdadala talaga," Hontiveros added. "And nakita naman natin sa practice, ang ingay niya. The other guys, sila Jayson (Castro) parang binibigyan din siya ng opportunity to really lead."
(Without Ping, he felt the responsibility of being a leader more. And we can see it in practice, he's very vocal. The other guys like Jayson are giving him the opportunity to lead.)
Gilas is currently preparing for the 2017 SEABA Championships to be held in Manila from May 12 to 18, where the winner will qualify for the FIBA Asia Cup in August.
Coach Chot Reyes is still working with a pool of players from which he will choose his final 12, which is expected to be announced at month's end. – Rappler.com