Just the start of something big for Eagles, so says Mike Nieto
Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Dec 08, 2016 03:22 PM
BEGIN AGAIN. Mike Nieto is confident that young Ateneo will only reach even greater heights.
Swept in the Finals, Ateneo de Manila University had to settle for a runner-up finish in the UAAP 79 Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Sweeping the Blue Eagles was archrival De La Salle University.
Of course, handing their foremost foes a championship did not sit well with the young yet proud kids from Katipunan. As Mike Nieto put it, “Masakit e. Masakit talaga, sobra.”
He was also quick to add, however, “But we have to give credit where credit is due. La Salle’s a very strong team.”
Even after getting swept, the second-year forward remained adamant that Ateneo could have had the Green Archers. It wasn’t meant to be this season, but the coming years are another matter altogether – especially with all the experience they earned.
“Gaya nga nung sinabi ko kanina after the game, ‘This is just a blessing in disguise for us.’ We’ll use this as motivation come Season 80,” he shared. “Lahat kami bata pa, pero kitang-kita naman na kayang-kaya naman.”
Twin and teammate Matt could only agree. “Pagkatapos ng game, nakita ko na yung ibang mga teammates ko, medyo paiyak na. Kahit ako, actually kasi it’s really a tough loss,” he said.
He then continued, “Pero I just told them, ‘Remember this day and this day won’t happen again. Use this day as a motivation to strive harder next season.’”
For head coach Tab Baldwin, anything and everything the Eagles experienced throughout the season was part of the process. As he is wont to do, he explained it as such, “I can say that our growth was impressive, but that’s what we’re supposed to do. I told this team from day one, ‘Our job is not to win a championship.’”
He then continued, “’Our job is to grow great players. The byproduct of doing that is winning championships.’”
Indeed, from a squad that went on a roller-coaster ride in the first round to a streak in the second round, Ateneo’s rise cannot be denied.
Still, there remain many more greater heights to be reached. “Obviously, the future looks very bright, but at the same time, if we don’t come in next year thinking what we have to improve, then we’ll probably go backwards,” the American-Kiwi mentor said.
He then continued, “The test is not to live up to this year, but to live up to our potential.”
In the end, Mike Nieto had one promise to the Ateneo community. “This is just the start of something big with regards to our team,” he expressed.
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