Calvin Abueva vividly remembered the time he played against a group of visiting PBA players in Angeles, Pampanga.
He was skinny, but a pesky, energetic player. already.
He had big dreams as a baller, but then again, he was also in fan mode the moment his exhibition game against a selection led by Ranidel de Ocampo and his “Cabalen” Arwind Santos was over.
“Naalala ko nun si kuya Ranidel di ba Air21 sila kasama si Arwind? Nakalaro ko sila sa Angeles at muntik pa sila matalo eh,” Abueva said, recollecting the time he went up against the 2 current PBA stars some 10 years ago.
But what’s special in that occasion was when their team manager asked for De Ocampo’s pair of And1 basketball shoes after the game.
The 6-foot-1 Abueva said he was used to playing with a pair of worn-out basketball shoes since money was not easy to come by in those days.
“Siyempre yung sapatos ko nun bigay bigay lang, tapos kakilala ng manager namin si Ranidel. So sabi niya, ‘kuya, puwede ba arborin yung sapatos mo? And1 pa nun siya,’” the 28-year-old Abueva shared with child-like glee.
“Na-arbor ko nun size 14, pero size 13 lang ang paa ko nun. Binigay niya (De Ocampo) sa akin. Ang tagal kong ginamit yun,” he added.
That was a decade ago.
When Abueva finally reached the PBA by becoming the 2nd overall pick in the 2012 Rookie Draft, the Alaska wingman asked the Tropang TNT stretch-four if he still remembered their exhibition match in Angeles.
“Oo, natatandaan niya. Sabi niya ibang klase ka. Eh pati nga si Arwind napapalaban pa nun sa amin,” said the former PBA Rookie of the Year.
Today, Abueva and De Ocampo play in one team, Gilas Pilipinas, a scenario that the Alaska forward couldn’t even imagine would happen when they played against each other in 2006.
And yes, today, Abueva and De Ocampo, rivals in the PBA share one common goal — that is to help the Philippines punch a return ticket to the Olympics this July after a 44-year absence.
Gilas is currently winding up its 9-day training camp in Greece, before flying to Turkey to play the host this weekend for a friendly match.
The Philippine team only has over 2 weeks to prepare before plunging into action against the Tony Parker-led France men’s national squad on July 5 in the opening day of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila. – By Richard Dy
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