UAAP: Don't worry, Eagles' youngsters will only be better

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Sep 09, 2018 08:43 PM
UAAP: Don't worry, Eagles' youngsters will only be better
There is nowhere to go but up for Ateneo youngsters William Navarro, Angelo Kouame, and SJ Belangel after they experienced an upset loss in their first games in blue and white

Ateneo de Manila University is mostly intact for its title defense.

That didn’t stop them from adding a few more weapons, however, in UAAP Juniors champion SJ Belangel, 6-10 Ivorian Angelo Kouame, and former San Beda University forward William Navarro.

Come the first game of the Blue Eagles in the UAAP 81 Men’s Basketball Tournament, however, the youngsters all showed rookie jitters and ultimately saw their squad fall to Adamson University, 70-74.

Kouame only had a solitary point and 11 rebounds to go along with four turnovers in 19 minutes of play. Navarro, for his part, had five points in 2-of-8 shooting on top of six boards and three errors in 21 minutes of action.

The most trying time on the floor, however, had to be that of Belangel who was scoreless in one and a half minutes while also turning the ball over twice.

It was when Belangel was on the floor right before halftime that Jerom Lastimosa turned up the pressure and forced three turnovers that led to an 11-0 run that erased a 10-point deficit and erected a 40-39 confidence-boosting lead in favor of the Soaring Falcons.

With that, Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin could do nothing but acknowledge that those three indeed showed their youth. “I thought that some of our younger players played like deer (caught) in the headlights. They needed to settle into the job quicker and I don’t think Adamson allowed them to,” he shared.

He then continued, “I think there was a little bit of blood in the water and they were the sharks. They really went after them and they were effective doing that.”

Still, coach Tab only believes that his youngsters will bounce back. As he put it, “We know our young players are good players. We know that they will learn from that experience.”

He then continued, “They feel bad. They feel that maybe, some of this is on their shoulders. I told them, ‘No, it’s not.’”

In the end, the always amiable mentor said that all of the Blue Eagles have some bouncing back to do. “When we give up 14 offensive rebounds and 17 second chance points, it has got nothing to do with rookies. It has something to do with defense and boxing out – all of which we failed to do. That ain’t a rookie issue,” he remarked.

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