Playing outside the bright lights of the UAAP and the NCAA, Aris Dionisio, Mike Ayonayon, and Chris Bitoon had to be creative to boost their respective stocks in hopes of making it to the PBA.
The 6-foot-5 Dionisio started off his career with the Philippine Business School Administration in the NCRAA, before transferring to St. Clare College to showcase his talents in NAASCU. Dionisio then decided to forego his final year with the Saints and try his luck in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League with Manila-Frontrow.
Meanwhile, Bitoon, a stalwart from Manuel L. Quezon University, played for Che’Lu Bar and Grill in the PBA D-League. He later entered the regional league with the same team.
On the other hand, Ayonayon started off as a member of Letran’s Team B, but things didn’t pan out for him in Intramuros. He was then recruited to play for Philippine Christian University in NAASCU. There, he showed flashes of his potential which later earned him a slot with Marinerong Pilipino in the D-League.
The two-way guard eventually signed with San Juan-Go For Gold during the Datu Cup.
Despite taking roads less traveled, the troika’s move to the MPBL did wonders for them, since they finally had the avenue to showcase their respective talents.
And once they finally got their chance at the spotlight, the three made the most of it.
“Siguro mas nag-mature ako nung napunta ako sa MPBL dahil nung collegiate, ang iniisip ko lang talaga maka-graduate tapos uwi na akong Bulacan. Okay na sa akin ‘yun,” said Dionisio in Tiebreaker Vodcasts’ CPT Crossover, presented by SMART and supported by LGR Sportswear.
“Siguro mare-ready kami dito dahil ‘yung game ng MPBL, sobrang physical eh. No blood, no foul talaga eh. Eh sa PBA talagang ganon din eh, so dito sa MPBL siguro doon kami masasanay na hindi na kami aarte arte. Hindi na kami magugulat pagdating sa PBA na, ‘Ah ganito pala kabigat ‘yung game dito’,” added Bitoon.
The three blossomed into the league’s top stars in their two-year stint, which eventually led to a ticket to the PBA.
Ayonayon was taken by NLEX as the third overall pick in the 2019 PBA draft, while Dionisio also came off the board in the first round after being selected by Magnolia with the ninth pick. Bitoon, meanwhile, was picked by Blackwater in the third round with the 26th overall pick.
And the three could not thank the league enough for giving their careers a huge lift, all while helping them hone their respective games for the professional league.
“Laking pasasalamat ko rin sa MPBL kasi despite na NAASCU lang kami, maganda pa rin ‘yung napakita namin na exposure sa MPBL,” Ayonayon bared.