Change is in the air for the fledgling Ateneo Blue Eagles

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Aug 31, 2016 07:13 PM
Change is in the air for the fledgling Ateneo Blue Eagles
SO BLUE. Season 79 is a season of overhaul in Katipunan.

HOW’D THEY DO LAST SEASON? 9-5

YES, THEY’RE STILL HERE: Aarong Black, Chibueze Ikeh, Adrian Wong

WELCOME TO THE FAMILY: Tab Baldwin (coach), Thirdy Ravena (returning)

GOOD LUCK ON FUTURE ENDEAVORS: Bo Perasol (coach), Von Pessumal, Jerie Pingoy, Kiefer Ravena, Arvin Tolentino

Already coping with the loss of longtime cornerstones Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal, the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles crashed right into even darker skies in the preseason.

Along with the graduation of veteran leaders in Ravena, Pessumal, Gwyne Capacio, and Fonso Gotladera, Ateneo was also forced to impose disciplinary actions on John Apacible, Clint Doliguez, Hubert Cani, Kemark Carino, CJ Perez, Jerie Pingoy, and Arvin Tolentino for academic deficiencies.

Tolentino, former Rookie of the Year, along with Cani have since moved to Far Eastern University while Pingoy, once the top recruit out of high school, has since transferred to a different nest in Adamson University. Carino and Perez are now undergoing residencies for NCAA squads.

Thirdy Ravena, finally cleared to play again after serving out his own school-imposed disciplinary action, did not mince words when asked about his reaction when he heard the news. “The first thing that came to my mind, I don’t think I can say it. Napamura na lang ako nung nalaman kong wala sila,” he expressed.

According to the younger Ravena, however, it did not take long for all of them to see the silver lining. “Pero naisip na lang din namin agad na everyone on the team has to step up. Walang rookie-rookie from then on kasi seven good guys were lost. That’s too much,” he said.

Indeed, the pressure is on second-year players Aaron Black, Matt Nieto, and Adrian Wong to make sure they avoid a sophomore slump and instead take another step forward in their development. That also entails greater hopes for immediate impact from rookies like Jolo Mendoza, Tyler Tio, and Raffy Verano.

The good news is that Ateneo is very well aware of where they stand. “We know we’re a young team, we have a lot of young guys. The situation is a bit unfair because they have to mature quickly, but I think they’re all up for the challenge,” assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga said.

The assistant coach was nothing but glad to report that even though they have been brushed aside by the hype on De La Salle University and the hopes on FEU, they like what they are seeing from their players. “There are lots of question marks with our team, but what we have focused on is the attitude of our players,” he said.

He then continued, “As long as we continue to see the hardwork, the fighting spirit, we’re very happy with them.”

The even better news is that the Eagles scored quite a big catch in new head coach Tab Baldwin – you know, the same Tab Baldwin who mentors the Philippine national basketball team.

According to Arespacochaga, the question as to who the official head coach has long been settled. “I’m not gonna pretend to know more than him. It’d be the wise decision for me to defer to what he’s gonna say,” he said.

While Baldwin is listed as the Ateneo head coach, he will work hand-in-hand with Arespacochaga – a loyal soldier if there ever was one who was already there even before the Norman Black years. “We will be working together. That’s been the plan from the start – we work together, regardless of title,” he said.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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