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Fresh from PBA rookie campaign, Ayonayon makes return to SJ for MPBL season finale

After making waves in the PBA bubble, Mike Ayonayon finally gets to complete some unfinished business in the MPBL. PBA Images (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Last year, Mike Ayonayon faced a major dilemma in his basketball career.

His supposed first game with NLEX in the PBA coincided with the remainder of the MPBL Playoffs, in which he plays for San Juan.

The Road Warriors eventually cleared Ayonayon to finish his commitments with the Knights, but the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the MPBL indefinitely.

He ended up playing for NLEX when the PBA was cleared to resume through a bubble in Angeles, becoming an instant key player for the team in its bid to sneak into the playoffs.

But when the MPBL, despite keeping its "amateur" status, was given the clearance to finally finish its season, Team Owner Jinggoy Estrada quickly pounced on the chance to bring Ayonayon back to the Knights.

"Ang ginawa ni [Senator] talagang siya mismo kumontact kay Commissioner Willie Marcial. Buti naaprubahan agad then tinawagan ako ni Sen na okay na pwede ka na maglaro. Nagulat ako," Ayonayon bared on Tuesday in the CPT Crossover podcast.

Estrada then revealed, "Noong nalaman ko na matutuloy na ang MPBL, syempre si Mike is a very valuable player for San Juan. Kumbaga prized gem namin yan so I had to make a certain effort to call Commissioner Willie Marcial of the PBA and ask him if the outstanding agreement between MPBL and PBA is still in effect. So sabi niya, 'I will have to consult the board of governors tomorrow.' The next day, tumawag siya nung bandang hapon sabi niya sa akin, 'Senator okay na si Mike Ayonayon you can let him play sa Finals ng MPBL.' So nagpasalamat naman ako kay Comm Marcial. Napakabait ni Commissioner Marcial."

The said agreement gives the 2019 PBA draftees who are still committed to MPBL teams a chance to finish their season there before formally making the jump to the pros.

This also works for this year's draft class, paving the way for the likes of Davao Occidental's Ken Mocon and Basilan's Philip Manalang to complete their MPBL campaign ahead of Sunday's PBA Draft.

Estrada then said that the spitfire guard, a vital cog in San Juan's title bid last season, is deserving of a comeback with the team.

"He deserves it kasi mabait siyang tao. Mabait yang batang yan. Pangalawa, disiplinado maglaro. Pangatlo, meron siyang ambisyon talaga na pumanik sa PBA then he got it. Kaya bilib naman ako sa batang yan," Estrada further said.

The Knights look to finally book a return to the MPBL Finals as they take on the Makati Skyscrapers in the knockout North Division Final on Wednesday night in Subic.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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