<
>

Maverick Ahanmisi feeling right at home with the run-and-gun Converge FiberXers

Maverick Ahanmisi is one of several thriving under new Converge FiberXers coach Aldin Ayo's run-and-gun system so far in the 2022-23 PBA Commissioner's Cup. PBA Media Bureau

Pace and space was the emphasis for the Converge FiberXers as the franchise entered a new era under incoming coach Aldin Ayo heading into the 2022-23 PBA Commissioner's Cup.

And so far, no player has thrived under the frenetic system as much as Maverick Ahanmisi.

With the league's youngest roster, a bevy of athletic players and an array of floor spacers, there was simply more to gain from capitalizing on fresh legs and outgunning teams with sheer volume as compared to pumping the brakes and being intentional in the halfcourt.

Through five games, with a league-leading 1.26 points per possession (PPP) in transition powering an offense (111.3 offensive rating) that trails only Bay Area Dragons, the results have been tremendous.

Beneficiaries have been aplenty with Ayo practically giving everybody the green light -- franchise star Jeron Teng is more efficient than ever, while Justin Arana, RK Ilagan, and Aljun Melecio have thrived and flashed vivid moments of brilliance -- but none have shined on a consistent basis as much as Ahanmisi has early on.

The 31-year-old California native has averaged 14.0 points on a 57.8% true shooting clip -- a career-high figure in any conference if he maintains it. Ahanmisi has also drained 37.8% of his 7.4 tries from deep -- a figure topped by only three other guys among an exclusive group of 13 players who have shot seven 3s a game.

The raw numbers don't jump off the page, but considering that Converge lacks a consistent shot creator who possesses the size, stroke, consistency and gravity in the perimeter, Ahanmisi's output is not by any means a level of production that should be taken lightly.

Ahanmisi says there is a lot of comfort playing fast and shooting a ton because this has been the way he was wired early in his amateur career.

"I attest a lot to coach Aldin's system. He really helps us, helps me -- at least personally -- with the run-and-gun. You see how many 3s we take," Ahanmisi said last Friday following an important 106-102 win over San Miguel.

"I played this way when I was in high school, when I was in college. I already know the system. I think that's why I've been playing so well -- I feel comfortable, and he makes it easy," added the University of Minnesota product.

A spread-out floor means more breathing room to operate, which means the looks are cleaner, and getting a rhythm going becomes an easier task. On-ball, Ahanmisi is operating with more assertion and less resistance, scoring a solid 1.0 PPP when shooting off the pick and roll (league average is 0.77).

When sets bog down in the halfcourt, Ahanmisi has also been adept at bailing them out of sticky situations by calling his own number and has scored a mammoth 1.75 PPP in isolations.

Off the ball, Ahanmisi has been just as excellent.

For the conference, Ahanmisi has gone 6-of-11 catch-and-shoot 3s and has hit 50% of his triples when flying off of screens -- encouraging figures that could prompt Ayo and his staff to draw more sets that lead to the 6-foot-2 guard finishing on both those outcomes.

"It's the space," Ahanmisi said when asked about the catalyst to his uptick in offensive production. "And you see how we play -- anybody who comes in the game is able to shoot 3s. It's really hard to guard when running that fast pace and everybody off the bench can shoot. Even our bigs are shooting 3s."

There's an argument to be made that Ahanmisi should get even more touches, but that's not an easy ask on a Converge team with a lot of mouths to feed. As it stands, though, he's certainly proven he's more than capable of repaying the trust that has been saddled on him entering the conference.

"I appreciate coach Aldin being very transparent with me and what he needs from me, and so it's really easy to translate that to the game 'cause I know what he needs, and I know what he wants from me," he said.

"He needs my leadership, on and off the court," Ahanmisi continued. "[And] he tells me not to hesitate, you know what I mean? If that shot's open and I feel it, I take it. That type of confidence that your coach instills in you, it's kind of like you have no fear when you're playing out there.

"Obviously I put the work in, but they have a lot of confidence in me. With that confidence comes a lot of responsibility, obviously. But I like the role, and it makes it easy for me to know that my teammates and my coaches have my back."

At 3-2, Converge is in a relatively good spot considering the franchise is under new management, but greater challenges await with eight more games to go.

Inconsistent shooting beyond Ahanmisi could stall the offense at very inopportune times later on, and fatigue might eventually set in down the stretch, though that could be alleviated by a solid halfcourt offense (0.95 PPP, second) that's actually been better than expected.

Don't bet on Converge deviating from what has made them successful, though.

"It's like we live and die by the 3," Ahanmisi said. "But we're playing really well right now, so hopefully we keep it up."