It took some time, but finally, Justin Chua is starting to carve his niche with Meralco
After the Meralco Bolts picked up their second win of the conference against the NLEX Road Warriors, a group of reporters surrounded Justin Chua — much to the surprise of both Chua and second-year forward Chris Newsome.
“It’s your first interview ever!” an elated Newsome told Chua, patting him on his back.
Newsome’s reaction was genuine, knowing that Chua’s emergence this conference has helped the Bolts to a 2-0 record this conference.
Prior to this conference, the 27-year-old Filipino-Chinese big man had started a total of just five games in his career — all during his first year with Globalport. After two teams and an ACL injury, he has finally found a home with Meralco Bolts and coach Norman Black — the same mentor that had recruited him to the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles back in 2008.
“Justin is out there for two reasons. He’s a very smart player, he doesn’t back down, and he doesn’t hurt you,” Black said about Chua, who has started both games for Meralco this conference.
“What I mean by that is he doesn’t make very many mental mistakes, offensively or defensively, as far as execution is concerned, he’s very sound, and that helps us a great deal.
“The second reason he’s out there is because he can hit open shots. He missed a couple down the stretch, but for the most part, he can make an open jump shot, he can score and finish around the basket. And that’s what we really need this conference,” added Black, who won five championships in the UAAP with Chua.
On Sunday evening, the 6-foot-6 forward scored six points in the game-breaking 19-4 run in their 91-84 win. And for Chua, it’s all about repaying the trust his mentor gave him.
“Siyempre, nagpapasalamat ako kay coach Norman [Black] dahil binigyan niya ako ng chance with his team,” said the admittedly-shy Chua, who is playing in his fourth conference with Meralco.
“Nung last time, galing kasi ako sa ACL injury. Wala pa ako sa rhythm. I just worked my ass out, kept training, at nabigiyan lang ng chance ni coach Norman. Sana maibalik ko yung kabaitan niya sa akin.”
With hulking import Alex Stepheson solving their big man woes, Chua hopes he can help relieve the pressure on their import all throughout the conference, as they look to bounce back from their horrid Philippine Cup campaign.
“Since college, si coach malaki tiwala niya sa akin. Sobrang grateful ako.
“Basta every game, kailangan kong ayusin. Gagawin ko lang yung best ko always and try to help our big men out,” the four-year league veteran vowed.