Hardworking Phoenix big man Chua in the mix for ‘Most Improved’ trophy
Justin Chua’s stellar play for Phoenix Super LPG is easily one of the noteworthy performances of the recent 2020 Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup.
The versatile big man averaged 11.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and a league-best 1.6 blocks and figured as an essential cog in the Fuel Masters squad which was fell a win short of making the all-Filipino Finals.
So commendable was Chua’s showing that it put him as one of the prime candidates for the Most Improved Player (MIP) award of the extraordinary season.
However, Chua said it was not something he consciously strived for. He was, as he candidly put it, simply putting in the work—a mantra that has driven him since entering the league.
“Something I’ve learned [throughout my career] is that nothing is given for free. So I guess it was just me working hard since my rookie year that [led] me to Phoenix where I finally got my break,” he told the Inquirer recently.
Chua joins a pool of candidates that consists of Phoenix teammate Jason Perkins, Rain or Shine’s Javee Mocon, Meralco’s Reynel Hugnatan, NLEX’s Raul Soyud and Barangay Ginebra’s Prince Caperal.
He believes winning the plum should also serve as a thorough validation of how far he has come.
Already considered a “journeyman” at a relatively young age of 31, he already has played for six different squads.
“It was never really a goal for me to get any award,” the 10th overall pick of the 2013 draft added. “But hey, it’s here. I’ve been made a nominee. It really would be nice if I got it.”
But if there’s anything that winning the award would also help him do, it’s to convince the Phoenix management that he deserves a fresh contract.
“Hopefully I’d get that MIP, so the negotiation wraps up quickly,” Chua said candidly. “Up to this date, me and Phoenix are talking and negotiating.”Chua could easily be one of the top players in the market right now.
After all, any PBA team could make use of a two-way center who can also chuck shots from deep. Adept centers are a rare sight in the league, after all.
But the 11 other teams might want to reconsider if they think they have a chance of plucking Chua out of the Fuel Masters.Asked whether he intends to stay with Phoenix, Chua said, “Of course. No question.”
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