UAAP Season 82: Mike Nieto made all of Ateneo better - even the coaching staff

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Nov 21, 2019 04:04 PM
Mike Nieto made all of Ateneo better - even coaching staff
(Photo by Arvin Lim)

Ateneo de Manila University’s team in the UAAP 82 Men’s Basketball Tournament will always be in the record books as the first and only team to have gone undefeated in a 16-game season.

Only one Blue Eagle, however, will have his name live on in infamy - if head coach Tab Baldwin is to be believed.

“Look at all of us and think about where we’re gonna be in 10 or 15 years, you’ll forget most of us,” he said. “But you won’t forget Mike Nieto.”

Of course, it’s tough to think that the likes of Thirdy Ravena and Matt Nieto as well as Ange Kouame and SJ Belangel - and even Coach Tab himself, for that matter - will be forgotten.

Still, that statement is just the latest proof of how much Baldwin appreciates the elder of the Nieto twins.

Mike’s per game counts of 4.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in his last year in blue and white were far from impressive, but his leadership in the past seasons of a fully loaded lineup has proven to be indispensable.

“Mike is a natural leader. Mike is a communicator. Mike is a thinker,” Nieto’s multi-titled mentor said.

He then continued, “In terms of touching people, making lives better, and making sure that everybody around him has a better chance than what he has, that’s our captain.”

Indeed, the former Jrs. MVP has never shied away from getting a reduced role as he transformed from a dominant, but undersized big man as a Blue Eaglet to a 3-and-D wing as a Blue Eagle.

What mattered most for him, through it all, is getting to lead Ateneo to victory.

Even more, Mike’s winning attitude has not only rubbed off on his teammates, but their coaching staff as well. “He even makes our coaching staff better,” coach Tab said.

In the end, what’s certain is that these Blue Eagles - these Blue Eagles who had a perfect season - won’t forget Mike Nieto.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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