Ayonayon, Tolentino head MPBL rookies shining in PBA ‘bubble’

Roy Luarca (Philstar.com) – October 20, 2020 – 5:36pm

MANILA, Philippines – Inserted into the NLEX starting five, Mike Ayonayon showed coach Yeng Guiao what he can do in the PBA.

Ayonayon, the heralded rookie out of the San Juan Knights in the MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League), tallied 20 points, 6 rebounds and 1 steal although the Road Warriors skidded to an 88-98 loss to Blackwater Elite in the Philippine Cup going on at the AUF Sports & Cultural Arena in Angeles City.

The breakout performance raised Ayonayon’s averages to 9 points and 3.7 rebounds in three games as the 6-foot high-flyer looms to be a strong contender for Rookie of the Year.

That Ayonayon would excel in the pro ranks is hardly surprising. He  was chosen MPBL Finals MVP last year after lifting the San Juan Knights to the Datu Cup title and again played a key role as the Knights advanced to the North Division Finals of the MPBL Lakan Cup which got halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s not only Ayonayon, however, who is expected to shine right away among the newcomers from the country’s top regional league.

Arvin Tolentino, formerly of the Batangas City Tanduay Athletics, has long been tagged a prime collegiate prospect from Ateneo and Far Eastern University.

The 6-foot-5 stretch forward is averaging a modest 7 points and 2.7 rebounds thus far, but Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone believes Tolentino will contribute more as the short “bubble” tournament progresses.

Will McAloney, the undersized 6-4 power forward/center out of Cebu Casino Ethyl Alcohol  is also providing quality minutes for the Road Warriors, posting 6 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block each outing.

Playing under his father, multi-titled coach Norman Black, puts pressure on Aaron Black, who had stints with Quezon City and Zamboanga Family’s Brand Sardines.

Highly competitive and versatile, Aaron did not let Norman down as the former Ateneo Blue Eagle scored all of his eight points in the second half to help the Meralco Bolts subdue the Alaska Aces, 93-81, recently.

Another MPBL star waiting in the wings is Aris Dionisio. The 6-foot-4 scorer and defensive monster out of the Manila Stars has yet to see action for the Magnolia Hotshots but is regarded as a can’t-miss prospect like Ayonayon.

These players are proof the MPBL is a springboard to the PBA.

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