No pressure for MJ Ayaay as Alaska picks him in 1st round
MANILA, Philippines – The 2018 PBA Rookie Draft was full of surprises from the get-go, and the Alaska Aces just added MJ Ayaay's name to that mix.
With almost no one expecting the former Lyceum stalwart to be picked in the first round, the Alex Compton-led Aces went ahead and selected him with their 9th overall pick, ahead of familiar swingman prospects like Michael Calisaan and Bong Quinto.
Despite the suddenly-lofty expectations to be asked from the 6-foot-1 role player, Ayaay just shrugs it off as he dons the famous red and white colors of the Aces.
"Pressure? 'Di ko naman ine-expect 'to eh," he told reporters. "'Pag practice na lang ako, ibibigay ko 'yung best ko para matulungan ko 'yung teammates ko at 'yung Alaska."
(Pressure? I wasn't expecting this anyway. So when I practice, I'm just going to give my best to help out my teammates and Alaska.)
After his good friend and former Lyceum teammate CJ Perez expectedly became the Columbian Dyip top overall selection, Ayaay just sat and readied himself for the long wait.
As it turned out, that wasn't the case at all as he got snagged just 8 picks later.
"Basta ako, relaxed lang ako doon sa likod at nagdadasal lang ako," he shared. "Kung ano 'yung ibigay ni God, pagtrabahuhan ko na lang talaga."
(I was just relaxing in the back and I was just praying. Whatever God would give me, I would just work hard on it.)
"Parang inaantay ko lang bawat number, inaantay ko na, 'Sana ako na, sana ako na,'" he continued. "Kahit ano'ng team, pagtrabahuhan ko na lang."
(I was just waiting for every number, wishing, "I hope I'm next." Whatever team it would be, I'd just work hard.)
Although the 25-year-old averaged just 9.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in his final year for the Pirates, he has shown the ability to take over and give exactly what a team lacks, whether offensively or defensively.
This was most recently seen last August 20, when Ayaay erupted for a season-high 20 points to help Lyceum keep their then-two-year winning streak intact against a red-hot Letran Knights team. His big game consequently earned him an NCAA Player of the Week award.
In any level of basketball, there will always be days where even the best stars can't find their groove. Ayaay is a very capable stopgap to any kind of problem, and Alaska knows this all too well. – Rappler.com