How Topex Robinson plans to keep Calvin Abueva in a good place

Once Calvin Abueva returns to the court, the Phoenix Fuel Masters want to find ways to keep him there. Ernie Sarmiento/ESPN5

Calvin Abueva for an hour in a classroom at the Angeles University Foundation Thursday bounced from teammate to teammate before the Phoenix Fuel Masters' first practice.

Interim head coach Topex Robinson said this is how he knew Abueva was in the right mindset to play.

"I just told Matt [Wright], if Calvin is like that, that means we got the right Calvin," said Robinson.

The right Calvin made his way to practice where challenged his teammates. He was energetic. He did Calvin Abueva stuff, minus the things that led to his suspension 15 months ago when he clotheslined TNT import Terrence Jones.

"What you see in games is Calvin in practice. He gets everybody, he challenges everybody. The energy and enthusiasm were there. It's really fun. I just love seeing him so happy. That's the Calvin we missed during the past year when he wasn't part of the team," said Robinson on Friday's episode of 2OT.

The PBA has not lifted Abueva's suspension but has allowed him to join the team in the bubble. The Games and Amusement Board (GAB) on Friday reinstated Abueva's license.

Still, Abueva looked happy. The team is happy and that bodes well as the team starts training camp for the resumption of the PBA Philippine Cup at the Clark Freeport Zone in Angeles, Pampanga.

Now Abueva will wait on a decision from PBA commissioner Willie Marcial. Robinson was quick to defend Marcial's deliberate approach.

"There are so many things people (don't know) about what the commissioner's office has done for Calvin," Robinson said. "Of course there are things they cannot just let out because they respect the privacy of the matter. What I can guarantee is that they're really helping Calvin as a father not just Calvin as a player. They're more concerned about that."

The challenge as every coaching staff has faced is channeling Abueva's drive. Robinson suggested partly in jest that Abueva eye the Sportsmanship Award rather than the Best Player of the Conference award.

Robinson said if he had to come onto the court to save Abueva from himself, the technical foul would be worth it.

"We have to make sure to be vigilant and try to make sure he's not gonna be in that same position again," he said.

Robinson and Abueva go back a long way. As his college coach, Robinson can read Abueva's facial expression and body language in the moments leading to an outburst. He saw the signs the night of Abueva's altercation with Jones.

Robinson regrets not being able to enter the court and grab Abueva before things spiraled out of control. He vowed not to let that happen again.

"I was so mad at myself. I know I was supposed to do something but I wasn't in a position that time to act on it," he said. "I told him now that I'm here, I'm not gonna let that happen again."

With that plan in place, the Fuel Masters wait for Abueva to be cleared by the PBA to play again.