MANILA, Philippines – The race for the 2017 PBA Commissioner's Cup Best Player of the Conference award is a close one – and 3 teammates are in the running for the title.
Guards Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot as well as big man June Mar Fajardo, all from the San Miguel Beermen, lead the Best Player race after topping in statistical points at the end of the semifinals.
Ross and Cabagnot are tied for first place with 34.125 total statistical points each, while Fajardo, a 5-time Best Player winner, is in close second with 33.067 statistical points.
They are followed by Stanley Pringle (32.538) and TNT KaTropa's Jayson Castro (32.467), who will battle San Miguel in the best-of-7 PBA Finals starting on Wednesday, June 21.
The Best Player race usually adds an extra layer of interest to the finals as performances in the last round could determine who wins it or not.
For the very talented Beermen, the narrative is a bit different with 3 teammates in the running for the honor. All of them espouse teamwork and are willing to yield, if it means lifting a bigger and shinier championship trophy.
"I think I speak for the 3 of us when I say that individual awards really don't matter. For us it’s really about the team," said Ross, 32.
"If we win the championship then everyone’s happy. Winning always brings individual accolades. So of course we have to win first then everything else is secondary. That's our mindset coming into this series, not being Best Player or MVP."
Cabagnot echoed the same sentiments.
"It’s just an honor to be with the guys that are BPC candidates. June Mar and Chris, to be with them. Arwind (Santos) was on it last conference. It’s just an honor to play with these guys," said Cabagnot.
"We have a little wave going on and I hope we continue this wave. But seeing them day in and day out, seeing their extra work, seeing what they put in outside of what you guys see on cameras, it’s an amazing thing. And I think we push each other to our full potential."
Fajardo, also the reigning 3-time Most Valuable Player, was simply happy to be playing alongside two other BPC candidates.
"They've performed well this conference. I'm happy to be teammates with them," Fajardo said of Ross and Cabagnot in Filipino. "Maybe they can each get a plaque," he added in jest.
The 3 veterans led San Miguel back to another finals appearance and, most importantly, the franchise's first Commissioner's Cup finals appearance since 2001. They've yet to win a title in the midseason conference.
"Like Chris said, this is the goal. We want the championship," Cabagnot said. "All-Filipino, that's done and over with. We haven't been to a championship in 16 years in this conference. I think that's the primary objective."
"We're just happy to be in the position we're in now," Ross added. "We're trying to win a championship." – Rappler.com