PBA: Honest talk with Aldin Ayo helps Mike DiGregorio break through for Converge
MANILA, Philippines–Mike DiGregorio has been riding the Converge bench for the past three games.
So when he got some minutes against the mighty San Miguel Beer on Friday night, the Filipino-Italian guard made sure to milk every second of the chance.
“That’s part of being professional, right? Staying ready, doing their job every day,” he told reporters on the heels of the FiberXers’ thrilling 106-102 victory at Philsports Arena that had the squad rising to 3-2 in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
“That’s what I’ve been doing: Being in the gym, working on my game, making sure I’m ready when my number’s called,” he went on.
DiGregorio, one of the players carried over from the disbanded Alaska Aces, had a dismal outing in the club’s first game under rookie PBA coach Aldin Ayo.
He finished with just two points against the lowly Terrafirma then nursing a 16-game losing streak.
Against the Beermen, DiGregorio came off the bench to deliver 12 points, including a pull-up triple in the final 3:49 to bring his club back into the thick of things after coughing up a lead that swelled as big as 17 points.
DiGregorio’s conference breakthrough was actually a product of a candid talk between a player and his coach.
‘Coach what’s wrong with me?’
Ayo said in the post-game presser that he was approached by DiGregorio during practice asking about his slashed minutes.
“He asked me why he doesn’t have the minutes. And I explained [to him] that you have to adjust first to the system,” the decorated varsity mentor said.
“It’s not only on the offensive end but more specifically on the defense because we prioritize it. I appreciate Mike D’s honesty. I mean, he approached me and was like ‘Coach what’s wrong with me?’ So, since he opened that communication, I was able to open everything to him. And, well, he listened.”
DiGregorio figured that Ayo has always been a player’s coach, due to the abundance of the coach’s former wards in college now with him at Converge.
“I just spoke to him. He was receptive. Honest with me, too. I’m not saying I’m perfect, there are things I need to work on,” DiGregorio said. “We had a good conversation and I was able to go out there and help the team win.”
DiGregorio wasn’t the only one coming off the bench and shining in that contest. Maverick Ahanmisi, a champion at Rain or Shine but was hardly utilized at Alaska, also made some key contributions in the big win against the Philippine Cup champion.
“Definitely comfortable,” Ahanmisi said of his role under Ayo. “I attest that to all my teammates and the coaching staff. Obviously, I put the work in. But they have a lot of confidence in me.
“And with that confidence comes a lot of responsibility. I like the role, and it makes it easy for me to know that my teammates and my coaches have my back,” he added.
Ahanmisi finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists, backstopping DiGregorio in Converge’s fightback down the stretch.
With the monkey off his back, DiGregorio is now focused on Converge’s next game against heavyweight TNT, his former team.
He did, however, note that he is not expecting anything.
“I think that’s the mindset I should have, right? To keep working, to stay working, to not be complacent,” he said.
“Just because I played good today doesn’t guarantee me anything, right? So that’s the mindset I wanna kee: That I gotta stay working, that I gotta stay in the gym, that I have to have that same fire inside me because it doesn’t guarantee me anything, right” he added.