UAAP 82: Best-ever? No, Ateneo just wants to be best version of itself

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Sep 04, 2019 08:11 PM
Best-ever? Ateneo just wants to be best version of itself
(Photo by Arvin Lim)

Ateneo de Manila University has won back-to-back championships under the watch of head coach Tab Baldwin.

And now in the UAAP 82 Men's Basketball Tournament, the Blue Eagles remain the favorites for a third consecutive championship.

Indeed, with a mostly intact core composed of Finals MVP Thirdy Ravena, Rookie of the Year Ange Kouame, Isaac Go, and Nieto twins Mike and Matt, the kids from Katipunan even have a golden opportunity to make a mark in history.

So much so that team captain Mike has even floated around talk of being the best-ever. "Of course, the three-peat is one of our goals, but we also want to be known as the greatest team ever," he told Cedelf Tupas of the Inquirer.

The graduating forward made it clear, however, that he never meant to make grand claims. "Siguro, mali lang yung pagkakasabi ko nun. What I meant to say was we want to be the best versions of ourselves - on and off the court," he said.

He then continued, "We don't want to give (extra) motivation to other schools by saying that. We just want to be the best versions of ourselves - na kung nakita kami ng mga tao, we're not just relying on two to three players, but we're relying on the first to the 16th player."

Throughout its time with coach Tab at the helm, Ateneo has been known for team play.

That is exactly why in the preseason press conference, Adamson University head coach Franz Pumaren, himself a multi-titled mentor, said the Blue Eagles remain the team-to-beat. “It's quite obvious - it's gotta be Ateneo. From player 1 to player 16, their skills are the same. Ateneo should be rated no. 1," he said.

For "Big Mike," that is truly what the blue and white take pride in. As he put it, "Yung first to 16th man namin, pare-pareho lang. Yun ang goal namin. Sinasabi nga ni coach Tab na gusto lang niya makitang different is yung face and number sa jersey."

Still, for Ateneo to fulfill its goal of being the best version of itself, that means putting on its best brand of basketball. "Where we go from here, hopefully, we settle down. We can break down the video, we can say this is where we failed, and we can say this is where we're going to have to improve against La Salle," coach Tab said after they fended off Adamson University for a strong start to the season, Wednesday at Araneta Coliseum.

He then continued, "Mike Nieto said that he wanted us to be the greatest team ever in the UAAP, but well, we can't be the greatest team if we don't play great basketball."

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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