Why Jesper Ayaay belongs with the Alaska Aces

All Jesper Ayaay wanted was to get drafted and hear his name get called. It didn't matter which team took him or what pick he landed at.

Ayaay himself was caught off guard when the Alaska Aces selected him in the first round as the ninth overall pick of the 2018 PBA Rookie Draft.

"I can't explain how great this day is," Ayaay said after the event, obviously lost in a world of surrealism.

Coming from a collegiate team that boasted of big names like CJ Perez and Jaycee and Javee Marcelino, Ayaay never really became a main man. He was crucial in Lyceum's back-to-back NCAA Finals appearances and their PBA D-League championship run. He was also one of the most important role players on the squad. But for some, if not many, that was all he was.

For Jesper, it was a responsibility he took to heart.

"I was never bothered by the spotlight shining on CJ or the Marcelino twins," the former Pirate said. "I always understood the role that I had on our team. I was the veteran so I had to be the big brother. Stats did not mean much to me. My only goal was to make sure I contributed something positive to the team."

A team player. A guy who barely cares about statistics. Someone who can maintain a full court press while staying effective on offense. Those are what describe Ayaay. At the same time, those are the same qualities of an ideal Alaska player.

The fit of Jesper in his new professional team is impeccable. It's a result of familiar brands of basketball that by no means is an accident. The link was Ayaay's collegiate coach, Topex Robinson, who was once an assistant for the Aces.

"I used to watch Alaska a lot when Coach Topex was still there," shared the rookie. "I could tell that our style of play in LPU was somehow influenced by the Aces. From time to time, Coach would share with us some of the plays and principles that they use in Alaska."

Perhaps it was premonition, perhaps it was coincidence, but way before he heard Alaska coach Alex Compton call his name on Draft Day, Jesper was already being prepared for his future as an Alaska Ace.

For all the similarities between Alaska and LPU, there's one that characteristic that stands out the most for Ayaay. "With Alaska, you can really tell that they're a family. And that's what we were in LPU."

"I'm just excited to be part of my family, to be the younger brother this time, and to learn from my kuyas."