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09:02 PM October 18, 2013

And it came to pass that this former poor errand boy from Pampanga rose to be the best of them all in the Philippine Basketball Association.


His precious trophy held aloft, Arwind Santos knelt in prayer after being named the Most Valuable Player in the 2013 PBA Leo Awards at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City Friday night.

“Binigyan ng kulay ang buhay ng dating utusan,” said Santos in his thank-you speech.


“Opo, dati po akong utusan, pedicab driver, carwash boy, nagtitinda ng orchids. Mahirap po ang buhay namin pero kahit papaano naipakita kong may pagasa talaga ang lahat sa buhay,” Santos also said.

It was a great celebration for this 6-foot-4 Petron Blaze sentinel, easily the biggest winner in this season-end annual awards.

He made the Mythical First Five for the sixth straight time and the Best Defensive Team in all his first seven years in the pros.

To top it all, he beat LA Tenorio in a tight MVP race, thus, becoming the fifth Petron/San Miguel Beer player to win the coveted plum after Abet Guidaben in 1987, Ramon Fernandez in 1988, Ato Agustin in 1992 and Danny Ildefonso in 2000 and 2001.

After several near misses, the Angeles City native finally became the league’s biggest toast, the second from Far Eastern U after Johnny Abarrientos in 1996.

“Marami akong dapat pasalamatan…una na ang aming management sa pangunguna ni Mr. Ramon Ang, Mr. Danding Cojuangco at Mr. Robert Non. Ganon din sa aking mga teammates at syempre sa aking pamilya,” said Santos.

Joining Santos in Mythical First Team were Tenorio, Talk ‘N Text teammates Jayson Castro and Ranidel de Ocampo and Rookie of the Year winner Calvin Abueva of Alaska.


San Mig Coffee’s Marc Pingris, Petron’s Junmar Fajardo and Alex Cabagnot, and Alaska’s Sonny Thoss and Cyrus Baguio composed the second team.

Santos, Pingris and Thoss also made the Best Defensive Team with guards Gabe Norwood and Marcio Lassiter.

Santos and Pingris could be considered now among the league’s best defensive players of all-time, having made the team for the seventh and sixth time, respectively.

Norwood is now a two-time Best Defensive Team member. Thoss and Lassiter both made the elite list for the first time.

Others going home with individual awards were Abueva, Nino Canaleta and Jayvee Casio.

Abueva, second place overall in the stats race behind Santos, claimed the Rookie of the Year award in runaway fashion.

Canaleta and Casio, meanwhile, bagged the Most Improved Player and the Sportsmanship Award, respectively, the latter for the second straight season.

Making great strides in his eighth season in the league, Canaleta beat Jervy Cruz, Reynel Hugnatan and Sol Mercado for Most Improved Player honors.

Casio, meanwhile, won the Sportsmanship Award after first winning it as a rookie with Powerade last season, duplicating back-to-back feats by Freddie Abuda in 1997 and 1998. He is also the third Alaska player to win the award in the last four seasons after Thoss and Baguio in 2011 and 2010, respectively. (SB)

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