by Waylon Galvez
Add to his resumé the Most Valuable Player honor.
The 6-foot-3 forward captured his first MVP trophy in the closest fight ever in the league’s 38-year history, winning the award over Barangay Ginebra guard LA Tenorio in the PBA Leo Awards last night at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Santos, the leader in the Statistical Points, accumulated a total of 2,840 points while the 5-foot-8 Tenorio finished with a total of 2,819 points, losing by just 21 points for the coveted MVP award in Asia’s first professional league.
Santos had 1,426 Statistical Points, and he also won in the media votes with 993 points, but received only 271 points from players’ votes and 150 points from the PBA Commissioner’s Office votes.
Tenorio both won the players and commissioner’s office votes with 284 points and 300 points, respectively, but got 917 points from media votes and 1,318 Statistical Points.
Talk ’N Text guard Jayson Castro came in third in the MVP race with 1,682 points.
The 32-year-old Santos can’t help but get emotional when his name was announced as the winner, receiving the award from PBA Commissioner Chito Salud.
Santos also gave PBA chairman Robert Non, who is also the San Miguel Corporation (SMC) chief for basketball operations, a hug and went down the stage, knelt and raised the trophy, then capped it with a sign of the cross.
Santos said the MVP award gave color to his once ‘uneasy’ life.
“Kuwento ko lang po. Isang utusan sa lugar namin, dumaan sa pedicab driver, bakal-bote, lahat na dinanas ko. Carwash, marami pa pong iba. Naglako na nga po ako ng orchids,” said Santos, who hails from Angeles, Pampanga.
“Lahat po ginawa ko para mabuhay po kami ng pamilya. Ito po ang nagsasabi na kahit mahirap may chance po makuha ang award na ‘to. Sana po na-inspire ko kayo,” added Santos, whose team is in the Governors’ Cup Finals.
Santos also became the first MVP winner in team history since teammate Danny Ildefonso won two straight in 2000 and 2001. He is also the fifth MVP for the franchise, joining Ildefonso, Renato Agustin (1992), Ramon Fernandez (1988) and Abet Guidaben (1987) in the elite circle.
While Santos was showered with applause, Alaska freshman Calvin Abueva was booed when his name was announced as Rookie of the Year, edging Petron Blaze 6-foot-10 center June Mar Fajardo.
The 6-foot-2 Abueva became the fourth straight ROY winner that was picked No. 2 overall pick in last year’s PBA Rookie Draft (Paul Lee 2012, Rabah Al-Hussaini 2011 and Rico Maierhofer 2010), and third Alaska player to win the trophy after Jeffrey Cariaso (1995) and Eugene Quilban in (1991).
Santos, Tenorio and Castro, Best Player of the Conference winners in the Governors’ Cup, Commissioner’s Cup and Philippine Cup, respectively, joined TNT’s Ranidel de Ocampo and Abueva in the Mythical First Team. Santos, San Mig Coffee’s Marc Pingris, Alaska’s Sonny Thoss, Gabe Norwood of Rain or Shine and Petron’s Marci Lassiter were named to the All-Defensive team.
On the other hand, named to the Mythical Second Team are Pingris, Fajardo, Petron’s Alex Cabagnot, Thoss and Alaska teammate Cyrus Baguio.
Air21’s Nino “KG” Canaleta bagged the Most Improved Player award, while JV Casio of Alaska won the Sportsmanship award, winning the trophy for the second straight year after winning it last season when he was with Powerade.