BEING the third overall pick in the last PBA draft has already put a ton of pressure on Rain or Shine rookie Maverick Ahanmisi's shoulders.
What more now that team's resident star Paul Lee is down with a knee injury.
Although young and untested, Ahanmisi said he’s ready to step up to the plate just to be able to help the team overcome the loss of Lee, who will be out for at least a month after sustaining an injury during the team’s tune-up games in Kuwait.
As proof, team insiders said the Fil-Nigerian guard out of Café France is now slowly imposing his will in both team practice and tune-up games.
“He's been performing well in practice. Even sa tune-up games namin maganda ang ipinapakita niya,” said a member of the Rain or Shine's coaching staff.
“Upside niya is strong ang katawan, he can shoot. I think in a year or two, he can be a very good player. We know his capabilities and gusto namin makita how he performs in an actual game,” added the same team insider.
But the team source stressed the Elasto Painters are not pressuring Ahanmisi as they know the hard banging guard is still ‘a work in progress.’
“Right now we don't pressure him. No doubt that pressure to perform at a high level was already on his shoulders. Pero we try to shake it off of him. We ask our other guards na alalayan (siya),” said the insider.
No need to compare Ahanmisi with Lee at the moment as the former University of Minnesota Golden Gophers standout still has to learn more about Rain or Shine’s system.
“Malayo pa siya kay Paul as of now, but he can create for his teammates. Sa tune-up, maayos naman siya. He can stand on his own.
“Yung offense niya on and off unlike Paul na anytime pwede mag connect,” said the Rain or Shine staffer.
For his part, Ahanmisi bared he is ready to step up to the challenge, something he considered especially after Guiao surprisingly named him as the team’s top pick during the draft.
“It's not a challenge for me. I just see that as more motivation to work harder in practice and hopefully, show him (Guiao) that he made the right decision (in naming me the third pick),’ he said.
Saying he's in no rush to break into a Rain or Shine rotation loaded with top-notch guards, Ahanmisi said he’ll just try to work and improve on his game.
“I'll try to work harder on my defense. I am not yet that far in my offense. I can shoot the ball well, I can use pick and roll as well. But right now, with such premier guards, I will try to learn from them. When I get my chance, I will take the opportunity,” Ahanmisi said.
The 6-2 combo guard is also happy to have the chance to play for Guiao, who has the knack for squeezing the the best out of his players.
“I am glad he picked me,” he said with a smile. “I am glad he is talking to me and when my time comes, I will take it.
“I am happy that coach Yeng is the one that chose me. I know how he develops his players.” said Ahanmisi, who admits up to now, he still can't believe he ended up being picked high in the draft.
“The highest expectations I have for myself.”