‘Fire and Ice’ duo of Calvin Abueva, Ian Sangalang providing much-needed boost for Magnolia

There is no doubt that Calvin Abueva is playing probably the best basketball of his PBA career.

“The Beast” has remained among the best basketball players in the country, leading the race for the Best Player of the Conference award after the conclusion of the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup semifinals.

The first and only time he captured a BPC Award was during the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup when he was still with Alaska.

And it helped that he’s been reunited with someone who has given him positive energy during their early years.

Ian Sangalang is once again the perfect partner for Abueva as the former college teammates at San Sebastian are playing key roles in Magnolia’s campaign this season.

Their combination has been a proven winner from their time with the Stags, where they won an NCAA championship, and then with the NLEX Road Warriors where they built a dynastic reign in the PBA D-League.

Now, they have another chance at winning another championship together as the Hotshots battle top-seeded TNT for the All-Filipino crown starting on Wednesday.

The Chito Victolero-mentored squad has never won a PBA title since 2018.

Sangalang had noticed a clear improvement in the behavior of the Abueva, but he still keeps an eye on him from time to time just to ensure he stays focused on the job.

“Very happy talaga na nagkasama kami ni Calvin ngayon,” he said. “At inaalalayan ko pa rin siya.”

“Hindi lang naman about basketball kapag nag-usap kami ni Calvin sa tagal na naming nagsama. Hindi naman for life nandito kami. So minsan, nag-uusap kami about things na outside basketball,” he added.

The 2nd overall pick of the 2012 PBA Draft is averaging 15.2 points, 10 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.1 blocks in his first season with the Purefoods franchise.

Abueva’s superb performance also seemed to have affected Sangalang, as the 6-foot-7 center from Lubao, Pampanga is currently ranked third in the race for the BPC honor with a total of 33.0 SPs after averaging 16.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists.

Sangalang said what Abueva brings to the table are enormous for the Hotshots, reminding him of a former teammate and a PBA legend who plays with the same heart and passion as his college teammate.

“Malaking tulong siya sa amin, kasi nawala si Kuya Ping. (Marc Pingris) Nawalan kami ng mga hustle player,” he said.

“So pumalit si Calvin. At least natakpan niya yung mga nawala sa amin.”

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