Ateneo de Manila University head coach Tab Baldwin is a firm believer that what you do and how you prepare during a long layoff will dictate how you will perform during the game.
For him ‘being rusty’ is a choice not an effect of a long break from action.
The Blue Eagles took a 16-day break from playing actual games after sweeping the elimination round but during that lull from action, Baldwin made sure that there will be no time wasted as they prepare for their grand slam bid in the UAAP Season 82 men’s basketball Finals.
“I said at the time, I always thought the big break was an advantage, not a disadvantage,” he said. “I’m a big believer in preparation. I think if you give me as a coach more preparation time, that’s gonna be an advantage for our basketball team.”
He stressed that long layoffs should never be an excuse to drop one’s momentum.
“We never bought into the stuff about a long lay-off makes you rusty and things like that,” he said. “Not working makes you rusty. Working makes you not rusty. And we worked. We worked hard.”
And what they did gave them the edge to mow down University of Sto. Tomas, 91-77, on Saturday in Game 1 of the best-of-three championship series at the Big Dome.
While waiting for their Finals opponent and the league was busy in the stepladder semifinals, Baldwin focused of the conditioning of his wards.
They knew that the team that they will face in championship round will be an exhausted squad but will also be a battle-hardened one.
The Blue Eagles had to be fit.
“Our preparation was tough. I told the team, after we finished the elimination round, that I didn’t think we were fit enough,” he recalled.
Against UST, a running and relentless team led by season Most Valuable Player Soulemane Chabi Yo and energizer Mark Nonoy, Ateneo needed that extra pump.
“As it turns out when you play UST, your fitness is gonna be challenged that’s for sure,” said Baldwin. “We might surprise a lot of people. We did a lot of running, a lot of sprints. A lot of work on our fitness.”
“We needed it tonight, even though we have a deep bench, even though we have confidence up and down the bench. They pumped those legs, man,” he added.
But Baldwin doesn’t want his team to relax at this point.
After all, the Blue Eagles still have to win one more game to complete a historic 16-match tournament sweep.
“We're not prepared to say that it has won us anything yet because all it’s done is get us to the next game,” he said.
Game 2 is on Wednesday at the MOA Arena.
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