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Once a journeyman, Justin Chua proves worth with Most Improved nomination

Phoenix big man Justin Chua is glad he did not give up on his PBA career at the time he bounced around the league.

A journeyman during his early years in the PBA, Chua has found himself in contention for the Most Improved Player award after playing a key role for Phoenix last season.

"Sometimes the game is more mental, when you're getting traded and when you're not being used," Chua, who played for GlobalPort, San Miguel, Barako Bull, Meralco, and TNT before being shipped to Phoenix, said in Filipino.

"It is really draining. But I've gotten used to it because throughout my career, it has been a rollercoaster ride even before I went pro. I just always kept a positive attitude."

"I kept working and hoped that the time will come that I can show what I can do and help a team, which happened now after, what, 7 years?"

The previous Philippine Cup saw Chua break out of his shell as he averaged 11.7 points on a 35% clip from three-point range, 6.7 rebounds, and a league-best 1.6 blocks.

For context, Chua shot a cold 23% from long distance and normed just 0.7 blocks in the season prior.

He also finished inside the top 25 of the statistical points (SPs) race, ranking No. 23 with an average of 26.4 SPs.

Those numbers proved beneficial for Phoenix, which nearly reached a PBA finals for the first time in franchise history if not for its do-or-die loss to TNT in their best-of-five semifinals duel.

"It just shows that everything I worked hard for is bearing fruit. I'm really happy," Chua said about his nomination.

"Hopefully, I win the award to solidify the hard work that I've been doing, considering the pandemic also happened."

Chua will go up against teammate Jason Perkins, Rain or Shine's Javee Mocon, Meralco's Reynel Hugnatan, NLEX's Raul Soyud, and Ginebra's Prince Caperal for the plum to be awarded virtually on January 17.

"Always try to strive for more and work harder. If you work harder, at least at the end of the day, even if you're not given a chance, at least you have no regrets for yourself," Chua said. – Rappler.com

Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.

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