To correct past mistakes.
That was simply the reason why Blackwater was so persistent in acquiring the services of Mike Ayonayon, which it finally got as the team and NLEX found a common ground and agreed to stage a three-player trade, Monday.
The deal, whose papers have been sent to the PBA Commissioner’s Office and is just waiting for approval, would see the Bossing send Marion Magat to his old team in exchange for the sophomore combo guard and Will McAloney.
It wasn’t easy for the rebuilding ball club to let go of the 6-foot-7 slotman, admitted interim head coach Ariel Vanguardia. But they eventually did, when the Road Warriors added the lefty 6-foot-4 bruiser to sweeten the deal.
After all, the main target was Ayonayon, who was really the Dioceldo Sy-owned ball club’s target in the 2019 Rookie Draft and not Maurice Shaw. The Fil-American center was picked second overall in the regular round.
Ayonayon was picked by NLEX right after.
“It’s correcting mistakes of the past,” Vanguardia told Tiebreaker Times, hours after the trade was made public online. “Kasi, we initially wanted Ayonayon to be drafted at the time when we drafted Maurice Shaw.
“Matagal na namin gusto si Mike, so we asked NLEX. Matagal na ‘to niluluto, eh. Back-and-forth ang negotiations. Initially we didn’t want to let go of Marion, kasi mababawasan kami ng big. So ‘yun, nag-add ng big, nagkasundo na.”
Ayonayon, together with McAloney, was buried deep in the Road Warriors’ bench in the last Philippine Cup. He only played for five games — totally far from his rookie year where he played in all of their 11 games in Clark.
That, though, is the least of Vanguardia’s concerns. The veteran mentor knows what the 28-year-old is capable of doing when given more chances, having seen his wares in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL).
The two had crossed paths in the regional league. Vanguardia served as consultant to head coach Tino Pinat with Manila, while Ayonayon starred for 2019 national champion San Juan that saw him win Finals MVP honors.
“Coach Tino was the head coach sa Manila nun and I was the consultant, so nakita naman namin kung paano maglaro ‘yung bata. For a while nag-Letran and PCU rin ‘yan. So, alam naman namin kung ano ‘yung capability niya.”
Well, Ayonayon had actually shown a glimpse that he can do well in the pros. Back in the first bubble last year, he fired a career-high 20 points and six rebounds, though it came in a losing effort against, coincidentally, Blackwater.
“He can score, can play 1, 2, and 3 and naging Finals MVP.
“And maganda ang pinakita niya nung unang bubble when he was a rookie. Last time nawala sa rotation, pero alam naman natin what he’s capable of doing,” Vanguardia said.