UAAP 82: Injured, ill, or not, there will always be a next man up for Ateneo

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Nov 15, 2019 04:50 PM
Injured, ill, or not, there will be a next man up for Ateneo
(Photo by Arvin Lim)

Ateneo de Manila University is two wins away from a perfect season in the UAAP 82 Men's Basketball Tournament.

Not only are the Blue Eagles perfect thus far, they have also dominated, with an average winning margin of 17.4.

And to dominate, they had to play to their potential. "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," team captain Mike Nieto said following a win in their season-opener.

Indeed, all 16 of the blue and white's players are ready and raring to contribute whenever called upon by head coach Tab Baldwin.

That depth, though, is actually quite the problem Coach Tab has had to solve game in and game out. "It's impossible to make everyone happy with the minutes. Two hundred minutes don't go into 16 players very easy and we know some players suffer through that because they don't get the number of minutes they certainly deserve," he shared.

For the multi-titled mentor, however, the answer is simple. As he put it, "We can't do anything about that. Two hundred goes into 16, but we're not about an egalitarian system."

He then continued, "I could care less about equality - I play players who deserve to play, I play players who need to play."

At the end of the elimination round, the Blue Eagles minutes were distributed to a core of nine players as well as seven "other" guys.

The core plays somewhere between 12 to 24 minutes, but not one player could say his minutes are assured as Coach Tab always preaches that each and every one of his boys should never being better.

That means that at any given point in time, somebody is always ready to step up for somebody. "If they go out there and for whatever reason, demonstrate that it isn't their game (today), we don't have any problem who will play next. That's just the way it is," Baldwin said.

He then continued, "We can't be soft about that and we can't apologize."

And that is why there will always be a next man up for Ateneo - because all 16 of its players are always good to go. "We can't have guys crying that they don't have minutes. Their job is to earn the minutes they do get," coach Tab said.

And so, as the championship core of Isaac Go, Thirdy Ravena, Adrian Wong, and Nieto twins Mike and Matt play their last few games, the Blue Eagles have no doubt that come next season, there will still be a next man up for them. "Right now, their job is to make their case for when these five go, how is the next group going to replace them and make us a better basketball team," Baldwin said.

He then continued, "Because that's the only thing I'm interested in - how we become better than our current selves."

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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