FOR putting in extra work and displaying blue-collar effort during games Phoenix Super LPG’s Justin Chua and Ginebra’s Prince Caperal may be amply rewarded.
That is if the PBA decides to hand out its usual awards despite its 45th season being limited to just the Philippine Cup and played under extraordinary circumstances inside a bubble in Pampanga.
According to Commissioner Willie Marcial, the PBA Board will come up with the final decision when it convenes for its regular meeting next Thursday.
Marcial, like PBA chairman Ricky Vargas, is inclined to proceed with the annual awards night, called the Leo Awards, held during the opening ceremonies of the season since last year.
“Parang pakunswelo na rin sa mga players dahil nga nag-sakripisyo sila ng malaki dito sa bubble,” explained Marcial. “At the same time, siyempre iyung usual na pagbibigay recognition sa mga outstanding players.”
“Every year, these awards are given out whether it’s two conferences before or three conferences every year,” Vargas has said. “It just so happened that this season is going to be just one conference.”
The PBA has annually handed out the MVP award, Rookie of the Year, the First and Second Mythical Fives, the Samboy Lim Sportsmanship Award, Most Improved Player, and the All-Defensive Team.
Most interesting is the looming battle for Most Improved Player since the leading candidates’ teams are both in the semis and each has made great strides from their past performances.
Chua averaged 13.18 points during the eliminations, up from the 8.9-point outing in the entire 2019 season of the league. Biggest factor for such leap is the 6-foot-7 center’s three-point shooting, which saw him hit treys at a 42.32 percent clip after averaging just 23.1 percent in 2019.
Chua’s rebounding also went up as he averaged 6.82 rebounds from his 4.4 rpg last season and he even lorded it over in the blocks department where he led the league with 1.73 swats per game.
Phoenix coach Topex Robinson was all praises for Chua after the former Ateneo second-string center took to heart the advice given him.
“Whether it’s your defense or your three-point shooting, make yourself valuable. ‘Yun ang importante sa kanya and he embraced it,” related Robinson.
While Chua was already a regular in Phoenix’s rotation last season, Caperal was not and served primarily as a third-string center behind Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar to the Ginebra squad that acquired him only in 2018.
But with Slaughter out Caperal saw increased minutes and promptly pounced on the opportunity by averaging 9.64 points, quite an increase from the 1.2-point output in 34 of the possible 52 games for the Kings last season.
The former Arellano U standout is also now good for four rebounds per outing as well as a legitimate three-point threat by making a league-leading 46.34 percent of his three-point shots.
Ginebra coach Tim Cone said better conditioning is one key factor in Caperal’s rise.
“He has a better body. He is stronger and he is also just a great guy. Everybody loves Prince. He is a super guy on the team,” said Cone. “We are all happy for his success.”
Accumulated statistical points of each candidate, plus votes from representatives of the teams, media and PBA Commissioner’s Office determine the recipients of said awards.
Marcial said there will be no Best Player of the Conference this time, with the MVP winner automatically the BPC.