Converge FiberXers guard Maverick Ahanmisi didn’t waste time reminding us just how good of a player he is on both ends of the floor.
The Converge FiberXers did what they needed to do on Sunday: demolish a short-handed NorthPort Batang Pier squad that missed the services of key cogs Robert Bolick, Arwind Santos, and Will Navarro. Taking care of the teams they’re supposed to beat is one of the boxes that Converge has to tick if they want to take the leap from being good to elite.
Seven FiberXers put up double digits in the scoring column, led by veteran guard Maverick Ahanmisi, who had 29 markers off the bench. But it wasn’t just the scoring that stood out in Ahanmisi’s big night; his court generalship was astute, as well as his body of work on the defensive end.
Ahanmisi’s 29-6-9 outing against NorthPort wasn’t very surprising, considering how consistent his numbers have been this season. In the last two conferences, he has tallied 10.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.3 steals. During the recently concluded Commissioner’s Cup, Ahanmisi’s usage rate was at 15.8%, just seventh among Converge players who logged at least 15 minutes per game. Yet, he still contributed significant numbers across the board.
On Sunday though, Ahanmisi showed what he can do when given more time with the ball. He was the first man off the bench for head coach Aldin Ayo, and he immediately made his presence felt. In his first offensive possession, he dished out an easy assist to Ethan Rusbatch, who set a ghost screen (a fake screening action where the screener pops to the three-point line), leading to a quick three-pointer.
It wasn’t that difficult of a read for Ahanmisi, especially with Jeff Chan and Arvin Tolentino being caught off guard by the ghost screen. Converge did a lot of these fake screening actions against NorthPort, particularly when Rusbatch, a good marksman who hit three from deep in that game, was involved.
Ahanmisi also displayed another facet of his court vision in the next offensive possession: a cross-court dime to a wide-open Jerrick Balanza.
Coaches don’t usually encourage cross-court passes, as these are more susceptible to pick-offs as compared to just swinging the ball and getting the defense scrambling. But Ahanmisi made the right read; he patiently waited for big man Justin Arana to go deep off the roll, which then forced the Batang Pier defense to pack the paint. He found Balanza wide open at the weak side wing, and the latter delivered the triple.
Ahanmisi’s growth as a playmaker will be vital for Converge’s success this conference. He has always been a good operator in transition, whether it’s finding his rim-running teammates or scoring the ball himself when he finds that opportunity.
But it’s Ahanmisi’s effectiveness as a half-court facilitator that will help him reach new heights. He displayed a glimpse of that kind of next-level playmaking in the next video clip.
After he successfully split the screen, Ahanmisi saw that Tolentino made the wrong decision of helping from the strong side. He then delivers the nifty one-handed pass to Balanza, who has plenty of time to load up and launch the trey.
Of course, the important thing moving forward is how consistently Ahanmisi can make these plays, although there are signs that point in the right direction. Ahanmisi may be stronger and bigger than most guards, but he has grown adept in reading the defense, avoiding picking up his dribble, and probing for open space. He’s not like most tank-build guards who approach every play with a full head of steam, as you can see in these next clips.
Don’t get it all wrong though; Ahanmisi packs the brute strength to make his defenders bounce off him, as he did a lot of times against NorthPort. But he may have also found a recipe for reading the gaps in the defense, a unique asset that should help him become unpredictable on offense.
Moreover, Ahanmisi’s body of work on the other end of the floor is what makes him one of the more complete players in the PBA. With an adequate blend of mobility and strength, he can defend positions one through three, and maybe even the smaller power forwards in the league. He has shown a propensity (and effort) to effectively navigate through on-ball and off-ball screens.
To top it off, he has the length and the speed to cover multiple bases for Converge’s defense. Just look at the amount of space that Ahanmisi had to cover to get this perfectly-timed block on NorthPort import Marcus Weathers.
Ahanmisi has been underrated for so long. His defense has always been there, and his offense may be peaking at this stage of his career. His stellar performance against NorthPort is just one game, but it may have shown us that Aldin Ayo is set on providing Ahanmisi with the platform to grow into a star this conference.