But on defense, the Batang Pier call on MJ Ayaay, an unheralded wingman who has embraced the task of taking on the opposing teams’ best players without much fanfare.
The 29-year-old guard’s defensive numbers in the Philippine Cup actually didn’t pop out, blocking just one shot and collecting one steal in the entire 11-game eliminations.
But it’s the intangibles that has earned him the tag as the Batang Pier’s primary stopper right in his first conference with the team after getting traded from Barangay Ginebra for a future draft pick.
“Pag dating ng crucial na dinedepensahan, may tiwala sila sa akin, yung mga coaches,” Ayaay said.
“Kailangan ko rin pagtrabahuhan yun,” the fourth-year guard was quick to add. “Hindi lang naman nila ibibigay sa akin. Kailangan may pride ako na pag sinabing depensahan ko yung isang star player, kailangan depensahan ko talaga at ma-stop.”
We asked Ayaay who the toughest players to guard in the PBA are and the 2018 draft’s ninth overall pick out of Lyceum gamely rattled off his Top 5.
Toughest players to guard for MJ Ayaay
Ayaay takes pride in his defense, but admits how difficult it is to contain The Blur.
“Si kuya Jayson, sobrang bilis kasi,” Ayaay said. “Grabe din mag-basa ng depensa, tsaka yung mga kontra-tiyempo niya.”
Ayaay was glad to be on the same side as the Barangay Ginebra star, but he now has the unenviable task of guarding him.
“Si Stanley naman, grabe yung explosiveness,” Ayaay said.
Ayaay didn’t take long to know how prolific and shifty the Fil-Am TNT star can be.
“Mikey Williams, syempre one of the best scorers in the PBA.”
Paul Lee, Matthew Wright
Ayaay has one less star to worry about in Wright, who has gone to the Japan B.League, but still has to figure out how to limit the Magnolia star in Lee.
“Kailangan mo ma-motivate na ma-challenge,” Ayaay said. “Mas gusto ko nga yun na dun ako nilalagay, kasi dun ako matututo, ‘di ba?”
“Nanonood din ako ng mga video clips nila, kung papaano sila depensahan, kung san sila papuntahin,” he added. “May times naman na may teammate ako na he-help sa’kin. Tinutulungan din naman nila ako.”
Ayaay, who also contributed on offense with his 5.2 points on 42-percent shooting, 2.2 boards, and 0.9 assist in 14.8 minutes in the all-Filipino conference, knows it’s a good day at the office when he sees his assignment get irritated at him.
“Pag naiinis sila sa’kin, mas natutuwa ako,” the 6-foot-1 guard said with a smile. “Pero wala naman akong masamang plano o intention sa kanila. okay lang pisikal, kasi kasama naman eh.”