MANILA, Philippines -- He did not produce big numbers, but import Ethan Rusbatch is a good fit for the Converge FiberXers in their campaign in the 2022-23 PBA Governors' Cup.
This was the assurance made by Converge head coach Aldin Ayo, after the import from New Zealand finished with 17 points, nine rebounds, and three assists in their 122-92 triumph over NorthPort on Sunday night at the PhilSports Arena.
His numbers paled in comparison to his NorthPort counterpart, Marcus Weathers, who tallied 37 points and 12 rebounds for the Batang Pier. But there were no complaints from Ayo or the Converge players about the relatively pedestrian numbers of their reinforcement.
"He helps space the floor, and I credit the bigs, honestly, for helping. And him spacing the floor, that allows me to attack the basket," said Maverick Ahanmisi, who fired 29 points on top of nine dimes to pace Converge.
"Fit talaga siya kasi 'yun ang hinahanap namin na import eh, 'yung magko-complement sa mga locals," said Ayo, for his part.
The Converge coach says he does not want an import who will put up 50 or 60 points in a game, and thus make their offense "very predictable." Rather, he wants an import who will fit their system and keep the offense flowing.
"Gusto namin na umiikot ang bola," he explained. "And we have good local players, magagaling, and gusto namin na lumabas 'yung laro ng mga locals namin."
The 30-year-old Rusbatch checks all their boxes, even though Ayo admits that he was not their first choice of import.
They initially wanted to hire Tom Vodanovich, a mainstay of the New Zealand men's national basketball team and a former Most Valuable Player in the New Zealand National Basketball League. Vodanovich wasn't available, however, as he is still playing for the New Zealand Breakers in the NBL.
"We looked for Ethan, mag-teammate ang dalawang 'yun eh. We want imports who are willing to play within the system, 'yung nage-execute. And these New Zealanders, they are known for that," Ayo explained.
"These players are fundamentally sound, and well, high in character eh. It's very contagious during the practices, kung paano siya mag-trabaho, paano i-push ang mga teammates niya. Very positive 'yung aura niya sa team namin," he added.
Vouching for Rusbatch was former Gilas Pilipinas interim head coach Nenad Vučinić, according to Ayo.
Still, Ayo made no promises that Rusbatch will be their import for the entirety of the conference.
"So far, okay naman eh. Pero I don't know kung ano 'yung magiging decision namin. Kasi of course, ayaw din namin mangyari na hanggang eliminations lang eh," he said. "Nag-iisip kami ng preparation for the playoffs, especially pag playoffs, mano-mano na eh."
In the Commissioner's Cup, Converge featured American import Quincy Miller who averaged 29.9 points, 15.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.9 blocks, and 1.9 steals per game. The FiberXers made it to the quarterfinals, where they lost to San Miguel Beer.
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