Still no 20-point per game scorer for deep, balanced Ateneo

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Sep 06, 2017 08:41 PM
Still no 20-point per game scorer for deep, balanced Ateneo
SAME, SAME. With an intact core, Ateneo is confident it can perform, at the very least, as well as it did a season ago.

HOW’D THEY DO LAST SEASON? 11-7, runner-up

YES, THEY’RE STILL HERE: Isaac Go, Mike Nieto, Thirdy Ravena

WELCOME TO THE FAMILY: BJ Andrade, Troy Mallillin, Gian Mamuyac, Tyler Tio

GOOD LUCK ON FUTURE ENDEAVORS: G-Boy Babilonia, Adrian Wong (injured)

Ateneo de Manila University made it all the way to the Finals a season ago.

And most of that team is returning for Season 80 with one thing on their minds – finish the job this time around.

“Of course, (our goal is) the championship. we’re motivated very much by what happened last year,” veteran guard Aaron Black said. “We thought we could’ve actually won it, but La Salle was the better team. We worked hard this offseason to make sure we get back there.”

Without a doubt, the Blue Eagles head into the oncoming season full of confidence – knowing that they were the only ones to have defeated eventual champion De La Salle University a season ago.

Unlike last year, however, it will no longer be a surprise if they did make the Finals once more.

The good news is they know that and have been preparing just for that. As coach Sandy Arespacochaga put it, “I don’t think teams will be taking us lightly. All the teams that we play, it’s gonna be a tough game for us so we have to make sure that we bring our A-game.”

He then continued, “We cannot take any team for granted – from the defending champs all the way down to the teams that finished last. Every game will be important for us.”

To be able to do so, the Katipunan-based squad will be doing the exact same things that worked for them last year – just with much more consistency. “Consistency from our players is what we’ve been demanding, but the good thing is we’ve got a very deep bench. If some of our players don’t play well, others can come in and step up and play that role,” Arespacochaga shared.

He then continued, “That’s why we have different people leading the team in terms of scoring. We won’t have a 20-point per game scorer. We’ll still be balanced.”

For reference, their top three leading scorers from a season ago were Thirdy Ravena (9.6), Adrian Wong (8.9), who is out for this season with an injury, and Mike Nieto (8.8). Yes, they did not have a double-digit scorer.

The likes of vastly-improved Isaac Go, versatile Mike Nieto, and talented Ravena may be the most known names, but Ateneo can also call upon the likes of Black, Anton Asistio, and even Chibueze Ikeh and get contributions.

That’s not even counting their four newcomers who are more than capable of making an immediate impact in Tyler Tio, Troy Mallillin, BJ Andrade, and Gian Mamuyac.

Even more, each and every one of them know just what coach Tab Baldwin wants and needs from them. Asked if they have fully grasped Baldwin’s system, Black answered, “I would not say fully, but a lot more than last year. He still has his details that he wants us to learn, but I think we’re already a lot better off when it comes to his system.”

He also added, “We’re a lot more confident now in it.”

In the end, the Blue Eagles are well aware they have to outwork everybody to continue being a contender – and that’s just how they like it. “Our confidence comes from our work and we work hard every day. We will never be overconfident, but the way we work hard every day, I think we have the confidence to win every game,” Black expressed.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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