By Adrian Stewart Co
A possible clinching of the Most Improved Player (MIP) of the Year award will be a cherry on top of a blessed 2020 for Bacolodnon Justin Chua of Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters.
Chua was a favorite for the individual citation following his career-high averages of 11.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and a league best 1.6 blocks in 17 games, shooting 35% from the three-point range, during the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup.
“It just feels like 2020 wasn’t so bad after all. After everything that happened, I was still blessed with so many things and winning the Most Improved Player of the Year award will be the highlight,” Chua said in an interview with Sports 5.
Chua, who is a former standout of Trinity Christian School in Bacolod City before being recruited to Chiang Kai Shek College and later to Ateneo de Manila University, credited Fuel Masters head coach Michael “Topex” Robinson for his career resurgence.
“Coach Topex was a huge reason why I played well. He kept things very simple. He’ll give you an opportunity to do what you can by finding spots where you can be effective,” the center said.
“It benefitted me that he allowed me to play outside more than inside because our offense became more diverse. I’m the center and I play outside while our guards played inside so it was a great opportunity for me to expand my game and become more valuable in the long run,” he added.
The Bacolod City-native big man also mentioned his teammates and fellow MIP candidate Jason Perkins as one of the reasons for his strong showing during the PBA Bubble.
“Me and Jason, through the years that we’ve been teammates, we’ve done our best to learn how to play alongside each other. At first, it was difficult because he didn’t know how I played and I didn’t know how he played” Chua said.
“Accepting our roles made it easier for us. When I accepted that he’ll be our main big guy in the team, it was easier for me to adjust to my role in the team. I don’t want to steal his touches or step on his toes so I accepted it,” he added.
Chua will be up against fellow Negrenses Reynel Hugnatan of Meralco Bolts and Raul Soyud of NLEX Road Warriors as well as Javee Mocon of Rain or Shine Elasto Painters and Prince Caperal of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings./ASC, WDJ