IT was rookie Maverick Ahanmisi’s way of proving his critics wrong.
The Rain or Shine guard rose to the occasion and proved he belonged after winning his first ever PBA championship in his first year in the league as the Elasto Painters ruled the Commissioner’s Cup on Wednesday night by whipping the Alaska Aces, 109-92.
Ahanmisi finished with eight points in the title-clinching win, putting a fitting end to a series performance in which he the Fil-Nigerian finally lived up to his billing as the player tabbed by the franchise as the No. 3 pick overall in last year’s draft.
The product of University of Minnesota knows all along people doubted the Elasto Painters' gamble on him by selecting him high in the first round of the draft.
But Ahanmisi said he never ever felt pressured to deliver right away, saying coach Yeng Guiao and the entire team just let him play his game.
“It’s a testament to coach Yeng, the coaching staff, and my teammates. They kept me comfortable and humble all the time I was playing,” he said.
“They don’t put pressure on me being the third pick. They just let me come into my own.”
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The end result had Ahanmisi blossoming into a key player in Guiao’s rotation during the playoffs. The rookie scored a career-high 30 points in a 111-99 loss in Game Four.
Ahanmisi said he’s used to playing under the microscope all his life, from his time at Stoneridge Prep and Golden Valley High School, all the way to college playing for the Golden Gophers under coach Richard Pitino, son of Louisville mentor Rick Pitino.
“It’s been like that all my life. I’m used to it. I just don’t really pay attention to critics,” he added.
Ahanmisi also didn’t fail to thank veteran guards Paul Lee and Chris Tiu for being his mentors at Rain or Shine.
“They really helped me out of playing like this,” he said. “I’m just really happy to be part of something like this.”