MANILA, Philippines -- The Best Player of the Conference (BPC) award will just be a bonus for Magnolia's Calvin Abueva and Ian Sangalang, as well as TNT rookie Mikey Williams, as they keep their sights set on the bigger prize -- the PBA Philippine Cup crown.
The three are currently the top contenders for the top individual plum in the conference, with Abueva leading the way after a strong first conference with the Hotshots.
"The Beast," acquired in an offseason trade with Phoenix Super LPG, is averaging 15.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.1 blocks, and 1.0 steal per game for the Hotshots. His average of 34.2 statistical points (SPs) leads all players.
If he wins the BPC, it will be the second for Abueva who also won the award in the 2016 PBA Commissioner's Cup -- back when he was still suiting up for the Alaska Aces.
"Sa akin, it's gonna be like a bonus," said Abueva, who has gained praise league-wide for his renewed focus and improved attitude following a long suspension. "Bonus talaga."
"Kasi, 'yung mga stats mo… di mo napapansin," he insisted. "Pero ang No. 1 na gusto mo diyan, papunta ka ng finals, and get the trophy. 'Yung [BPC], bonus na lang talaga."
Sangalang, meanwhile, has a chance for his first ever BPC award. He currently ranks third in the race with 33.0 SPs, averaging 16.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists while serving as Magnolia's primary option in the post.
For the big man, his status as a BPC contender is a testament to the hard work that he put in the offseason, but makes it clear that his full attention is on the championship as well.
"Pumunta ako dito sa bubble not expecting na maging candidate [for BPC]," said Sangalang. "Pumunta ako dito para makabalik ng Finals."
"Nilaro ko lang ang laro ko, noong offseason, nagpakundisyon lang ako. Bonus na lang 'yung nakarating ako doon," he added.
TNT's Williams has been one of the breakout stars of the conference. In his first season in the PBA, he led the Tropang GIGA in scoring with 16.2 points per game, and is now fourth in BPC race with an average of 32.0 SPs.
But the 28-year-old Filipino-American guard admitted that the BPC award wasn't even in his mind when he was drafted fourth overall by the Tropang GIGA.
"I came in just trying to fit in and do what I can do to help the team win," he said. "And now, we're in a position to compete for a championship."
"That was the only goal I had -- to compete for a championship," he stressed. "I'm just ready to go."
The three top BPC contenders will be back in action on Wednesday, when Game 1 of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals tips off at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.