RAIN or Shine assistant coach Caloy Garcia is standing by rookie guard Maverick Ahanmisi, the Elasto Painters’ top selection in the draft, believing it will only be a matter of time before the surprise pick proves his worth.
Not a few eyebrows were raised when league commissioner Chito Narvasa called the name of Ahanmisi as the third overall pick in Sunday’s draft, considering the Filipino-American guard was ranked as a mid to late first-rounder.
But Garcia, who was among those who convinced coach Yeng Guiao to tap Ahanmisi, believes the unheralded cager will eventually make his mark, citing the same situation of another little-known Fil-Am draftee in Mark Caguioa, who Ginebra took third overall in 2001.
“Maybe after two years, hindi natin alam…parang Caguioa dati, hindi naman kilala eh,” Garcia told Spin.ph on Wednesday after the team’s tune-up game against National University at the Northeast Greenhills Gym.
“People also questioned him (Caguioa), but look at where he was after a while,” he added of the Ginebra superstar, who went on to win Rookie of the Year, Best Player of the Conference thrice, and an MVP in his career, while leading the league’s most popular ballclub to several championships.
Still, Garcia, admitted the team made a gamble on Ahanmisi, a University of Minnesota product who played for Café France in the D-League.
“It’s always a gamble,” he said. “But we saw the draft, walang magkakamali sa (number) three to twenty (picks). Very talented yung draft.”
Garcia said the Elasto Painters were initially looking for a big man – and eyeing Troy Rosario – had Ray Parks joined the draft.
“We were thinking we would get Troy kung si Parks nag-number two,” Garcia said.
There was still a legitimate big man left in the draft, though, in La Salle’s Norbert Torres.
“Norbert is a good player, pero it will take him siguro a while before he develops for our team, sa style of play namin,” Garcia said.
And with longtime playmaker TY Tang retiring, Garcia said the Painters sought for a replacement.
“We needed somebody else to be the point guard, which we saw kay Ahanmisi,” he said of the 24-year-old freshman. “Ang upside niya is he’s still young. He has good skills, good shot, good range.”
The Painters also had targeted another playmaker in Scottie Thompson, who, however, is still finishing his NCAA duty with Perpetual Help.
“Kay Scottie, ongoing ang NC, so by the time he finishes NCAA, ongoing ang all-Filipino conference, tapos maga-adjust pa sa amin,” Garcia said. “Ahanmisi was the one available right now who can really help the team more.”
The combo guard, standing a shade below 6’1”, showed flashes of his potential against the Bulldogs during the exhibition where he registered nine points, including one three-pointer, and dished out a handful of assists.
“He knows how to create for the shooters.” Garcia said. “Medyo mahiyain pa siya umatake, but he’ll learn. He’s trying to get to know how his teammates play. We just keep reminding him to be more aggressive.”