In the PBA, the new kids on the block either go with the flow or swim against the tide.
The Converge FiberXers seem to be more of the latter.
Although the team itself was rebranded from the Alaska Aces after former team owner Wilfred Uytengsu sold the franchise to current team owner Dennis Anthony Uy, the FiberXers are neophytes. They have, however, bucked the trend typically associated with the TerraFirma Dyip and the Blackwater Bossing, who have more high draft picks than postseason appearances, but can’t seem to break the cycle of disappointment given their habitual trading of young and solid players to more well-established teams.
It shouldn’t be surprising that Converge has established itself as an “independent” team in the PBA, given that the Aces themselves were viewed as such during their more than three decades in the league. Unlike the Dyip and the Bossing, the FiberXers made the postseason in all three conferences. What remains to be seen is if they can win their maiden championship.
The consistency on the court has been remarkable, but matters off the court only add further credence that Converge does mean business. While it does have direct effects on on-court production, the hiring of Aldin Ayo, who has won college titles in the NCAA and the UAAP, has made the FiberXers a team that operates with a more frenetic pace on both ends of the floor. It also helps that Converge has been very supportive of him, as they have acquired players who fit Ayo’s system. That kind of synchronicity within the organization will only help speed up whatever they are hoping to build.
From a management perspective, the FiberXers also brought in former Ateneo Blue Eagle Jacob Lao first as an assistant team manager and now moves up to the team manager role. Despite his young age, Lao has already assumed a management role for various teams in different ranks and his ascent will likely run parallel to that of Converge. He also takes the role from Pampanga Governor and basketball patron Dennis Pineda, who was initially set on assuming the role of team governor for the FiberXers.
Until he wasn’t.
Pineda’s appointment was denied by the PBA’s Board of Governors on the basis of remaining apolitical. The rejection of Pineda’s appointment was quite the head-scratcher especially given some circumstances surrounding the league. For one, Pineda gave the PBA a venue in Angeles City when the league resumed play in 2020. It’s not about the give-and-take, rather, it’s all about how politics becomes a reason only when convenient.
Pineda would not have been the only active political member of the PBA as the likes of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters’ James Yap, Elasto Painters head coach Yeng Guiao, former GlobalPort/NorthPort Batang Pier head coach Franz Pumaren have all dabbled into politics while serving as players and coaches. Besides, Batang Pier owner Mikee Romero has been an active member of the House of Representatives so what gives? Converge did not mince its words in its statement once word came out of Pineda’s exclusion from the board.
One does not have to agree with the political stances of Pineda in siding with him and the FiberXers. Pineda had previously dabbled with forging partnerships with collegiate teams, but this was his first foray in the big leagues. Some of the players under his stable such as Arwind Santos, Calvin Abueva, and Ian Sanggalang have already forged solid careers in the PBA and more will likely make their marks in the league.
While Converge has since appointed Archen Cayabyab as an alternate governor to replace former PBA commissioner Chito Salud, it seems as if the FiberXers will continue to fight. An appeal may be in the works, but the fight will likely continue in the basketball court.
The league’s PBA On Tour may still be in full swing, but best believe that Converge will continue to push for its independent agenda and that’s something basketball fans yearning for a better PBA may root for. Who knows, maybe the FiberXers can finally have that breakthrough series win and earn a championship to stick it up to those that turned them down.
The Converge FiberXers have been marching to the beat of their drum and while they have encountered some resistance, they seem undeterred. PBA Season 48 is still months away, but the FiberXers have already shown this early that they mean business both on and off the court.