PBA News: Rain or Shine Sent Mike Nieto to Converge

2023/05/18

The Converge FiberXers continue to build their team ahead of the 2023-24 PBA Season as they traded their second-round picks in the 2024-25 and 2025-26 PBA Seasons draft for former Ateneo de Manila University standout Mike Nieto.

Mike Nieto's Performance in Rain or Shine

Nieto played 26 games during the entirety of the recently-concluded 2022-23 PBA Season, but he was forced to sit out early in the season-ending Governors’ Cup due to a knee injury.

In the 2022-23 PBA Philippine Cup, Mike averaged 11.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.3 assists. His statistics came down in the 2023 PBA Commissioner’s Cup, only averaging 8.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.4 assists.

Furthermore, due to a knee injury, he only averaged 4.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in the 2023 PBA Governors’ Cup.

PBA News: Rain or Shine Sent Mike Nieto to Converge

In Converge, Nieto will play alongside his teammate in Ateneo, Adrian Wong, who the team acquired from the Magnolia Chicken Timplado Hotshots after the season.

In exchange for Wong, the Converge FiberXers got Magnolia’s first-round pick in the upcoming PBA draft while the Magnolia Chicken Timplado Hotshots get Abu Tratter and David Murrell.

PBA News: Rain or Shine Sent Mike Nieto to Converge

However, the Converge FiberXers is not the ideal destination for Nieto, who was drafted by the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in the special Gilas round of the 2019 PBA Rookie draft. According to source, Nieto wanted to reunite with his twin brother, Mike, who is playing for the NLEX Road Warriors.

The Nieto brothers played competitive basketball together all their life, from high school and college at the Ateneo de Manila University to several iterations of the Philippine National Men’s Basketball Team Gilas Pilipinas coached by Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin.

The two only got separated when they joined the special Gilas round of the 2019 PBA Rookie draft, where Matt was drafted No. 3 by then-NLEX Road Warriors head coach Yeng Guiao, while Mike was picked at No. 5 by the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.

PBA News: Rain or Shine Sent Mike Nieto to Converge

Unfortunately, the NLEX Road Warriors did not make a move for the reunion of the twins to happen. Although, according to SPIN.ph insider, the reunion between the teams could still happen, although it may not be in the NLEX Road Warriors uniform.

Aside from Wong, Nieto will also be reunited with his former teammate in Ateneo, Converge team manager Jacob Lao. Their coach in Ateneo, Tab Baldwin, also has close ties with Converge FiberXers head coach Aldin Ayo and the owners of the team.

In the University Athletics Association of the Philippines, Mike and Coach Tab Baldwin won the championship twice against Coach Aldin Ayo, who coached La Salle from 2016-2017, and UST from 2018-2020.

In a phone interview with Rappler, Mike cannot hide his excitement to play under Coach Aldin, who immediately made an impression in the league in his rookie season.

He said, “Ever since college, I always faced coach Aldin Ayo, but now, being given a chance to be a student of the game under him, I’m really excited to learn since coach Tab Baldwin always has high praises for coach Aldin.”

“For me, [coach Aldin is] one of the best coaches in the Philippines, so I’m really excited to learn a lot from him.”

In a message to Rappler, coach Aldin sang praises for Mike, whom he called a player who is “high in character, fundamentally sound, has high basketball IQ and a championship pedigree.”

PBA News: Rain or Shine Sent Mike Nieto to Converge

Mike Nieto: A Champion Eagle

Although he has yet to taste a championship in the PBA, Mike Nieto is used to getting championships after championships, especially during his time with the Ateneo Blue Eagles, where he and his twin brother Matt spent all of their grade school, high school, and college years.

A son of former UAAP champion and Blue Eagle Jet Nieto, Mike and Matt led the Blue Eaglets to an elimination round sweep in the UAAP Season 77 boys’ basketball tournament, where they also got the championship.

As he dominated the paint, Mike was named as the Most Valuable Player and a member of the mythical Five alongside twin brother Matt. With his success in the UAAP, Mike became the captain of the 2014 Philippine men’s national under-17 basketball team, who qualified for the FIBA World Under-17 Championships for the first time.

Although he got many accolades in his illustrious juniors career, Mike, who obtained his moniker “Big Mike” in high school,” faced skeptics even before his collegiate debut for the same school. Standing at 6”1 and 200 pounds, Mike’s size and caliber is now under question as he faced taller players in the paint.

With that in mind, Mike slowly transitioned from being a big man to a guard, of course, with the help of his twin brother Matt, who played point guard. In his third and fourth years in the UAAP, Mike became a crucial piece in the school’s back-to-back championships.

Although he neither won awards nor became part of the mythical five, Mike showed that he was a leader in his own right. In the Blue Eagles’ run in Season 82, capped with a championship, Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin himself praised his captain for his contribution to the team.

“Look at all of us up here and think about where we’re [going to] be in 10 or 15 years. You’ll forget most of us but you won’t forget Mike Nieto. He will make a mark on this world that the rest of us may try to do in sport…in terms of touching people, making lives better, giving of himself, and making sure that everybody around him has a better chance than what he has, that’s our captain,” Baldwin said to The Guidon, the official student publication of Ateneo.

PBA News: Rain or Shine Sent Mike Nieto to Converge

Converge’s Newest Addition

In Converge, Nieto will also be reunited with his former teammate, Jacob Lao, who is now the team manager of the Converge FiberXers. At 23 years old, Lao became the youngest team manager in the history of the league.

In fact, Lao was the one who called Nieto when the trade was approved. Aside from being teammates in college, Nieto was also close with Jacob’s dad Frank Lao.

“When we were in college, we were in the team, but he wasn’t lined up yet, but he already helped us, that’s why me and Matt became close with Jacob,” he told Rappler.

“I was saddened that I left Rain or Shine since they gave me the confidence that I could play in the PBA, but I am really close with Jacob and Frank, and told them they will not regret the trade.”

In the Converge FiberXers, Mike will play alongside team captains Jeron Teng, Mike Tolomnia, Aljun Melecio, Maverick Ahanmisi, Kevin Racal, and Justin Arana.

In the team’s first season in the league, the Converge FiberXers qualified for the quarterfinals in all three conferences, before being defeated by the TNT Tropang Giga in the Philippine Cup, and the San Miguel Beermen in the Commissioner’s and the Governors’ Cup.

With Mike Nieto joining the team, the future for the team shines brighter than before, especially when he got reunited with his twin brother Matt.

The 2023-2024 PBA Season is set to open in October after the PBA moved the opening for the players who are set to play for the Philippine men’s national basketball team in the Asian Games in China.

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