EVEN before signing Ethan Rusbatch, Converge was actually looking at another New Zealander as import for the PBA Governors' Cup.
Coach Aldin Ayo disclosed the FiberXers were initially considering Tom Vodanovich to reinforce the team in its campaign in the season-ending conference.
But the 28-year-old Vodanovich wasn’t available yet, prompting the team to look at his teammate in Rusbatch instead.
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Ayo said Rusbatch is well aware of it.
“Ethan knows this, Our first option was Tom Vodanovich. Pero he’s still playing. Nasa NBL pa, nasa playoffs pa. So we looked for Ethan,” said Ayo following Converge’s 122-92 rout of NorthPort on Sunday to open its campaign on a high note at the Philsports Arena.
Vodanovich and Rusbatch are both members of the Tall Blacks and were teammates with the New Zealand Breakers in the New Zealand NBL.
Ayo, a known close pal of former New Zealand coach and current Ateneo mentor Tab Baldwin, said it was he who personally chose both Vodanovich and Rusbacth to be the FiberXers’ choices, although he did consult former New Zealand head coach Serbian Nenad Vucinic about the two.
“I talked to coach Nenad because nahawakan niya ang mga yun. Highly-recommended niya especially si Tom,” said the college champion coach.
Vucinic is currently team consultant of Meralco and once acted as interim Gilas Pilipinas coach.
More than the talent, Ayo said the willingness to play within a system is what made him consider an unconventional import choice in a league so used to American reinforcements.
“We want imports who are willing to play within the system. Yung nag-e-execute. And these New Zealanders are known for that and these players are fundamentally sound,” according to Ayo.
“High character. And he’s very contagious during practices, kung paano siya mag-ensayo, paano niya i-push yung mga teammates niya. Very positive yung aura niya sa team namin.”
Rusbatch tallied 17 points, nine rebounds, and three assists for a team-high 26 in the Plus/Minus department.