More than a week after the league rookie draft, Converge, the newest kid on the PBA block, has gained four first round picks in just its maiden season in Asia’s pioneering professional basketball league.
On Wednesday, the FiberXers formalized the entry of 6-foot-5 rookie Justin Arana in their roster after the former Arellano stalwart was signed to a two-year deal
His agent, Alvin Torno, confirmed this development to ABS-CBN News.
Arana was the fourth overall pick in this year’s Rookie Draft. The FiberXers also selected 6-foot-7 center Jeo Ambohot from back-to-back NCAA champion Letran as their third pick.
Two more first round picks were also acquired by the FiberXers coming off separate trades – forward Tyrus Hill and guard Kurt Lojera.
PBA: NLEX acquires Converge's 2023 first round pick
Hill, taken in as the seventh overall pick by NLEX, was traded by the Road Warriors for the FiberXers’ first round pick next year. In the trade, Converge also gained another promising player in David Murrell, a 6-foot-2 forward.
Lojera, chosen as the No. 9 pick of Blackwater, was also picked up by Converge in exchange for veteran slotman Yousef Taha.
This means that the FiberXers will have a bumper crop of young players joining the holdovers of the Alaska franchise, looking like a team coming in as an expansion squad that got a solid concession.
The FiberXers acquired Alaska late last season in a lock, stock and barrel agreement, which meant the team inherited all the assets of the Aces’ squad, including the players, coaches, management and staff.
“We’re a young team and we’re going to get younger once they all arrive,” said team manager Dickie Bachmann.
Bachmann was referring to the rookies, who have yet to join the squad that includes the remnants of the Alaska team led by Jeron Teng, guards Mike Digregio, Mike Tolomia, Aleck Stockton and RK Ilagan; center Ben Adamos; swingmen Allyn Bulanadi, Kevin Racal and Taylor Browne, among others.
The team is also waiting for Fil-foreign players Abu Tratter, Rob Herndon and Mav Ahanmisi, but Bachmann confirmed that they’ve agreed in principle.
“But it remains to be seen until they’re here,” added Bachmann.
Teng, the second generation cager, is being groomed to be the face of the franchise.
Not long ago, Teng was one of the young players of the old Alaska team. Now, he’s regarded as one of the leaders of the squad.
“We’re a young team and we have a lot of things to learn. We just have to be patient with it since there are a lot of new guys coming in. As one of the veterans in this team, I have to adjust to it. We’re a young team and we’re all hungry,” said Teng.
“Parang ang role ko is passing of the torch,” he added. “Ipasa ’yung mga natutunan ko to my seniors before sa Alaska, sina JVee Casio, sina Sonny Thoss, sina Calvin Abueva. ’Yung mga natutunan ko from them, ipinapasa ko na lang sa mga young guys para makapag-adjust rin sila right away and maka-contribute agad sila sa team namin.”
Among the newcomers, Murrell seems to be getting more comfortable just a few days after getting traded to his new squad.
“I’m just trying to do whatever the coach’s need,” added Murrell. “Obviously, we lacked big men, so most of the time I’m playing big, but actually, I’m a guard. But whatever I can do to help the team, I’m willing to sacrifice.”
“The future of this team seems really bright. Obviously, we need a couple of more pieces. We still don’t have our seventh pick – Tyrus Hill – but we’ll be really good, hopefully this season or a couple of years after.”
For Bulanadi, he looks forward playing a full season this time with his new team. He joined Alaska late last season when he was released by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas after playing briefly for the national team more than a year ago.
“Syempre, excited ako kasi bagong team,” said Bulanadi, a former stalwart of San Sebastian. “ ’Yung makakasama ko puro bata, pero you always keep on learning naman. Very promising itong team na ito, kasi puro bata kami, puro may mga potential. Kailangan na lang siguro naming mag-jell sa team.”