Awaiting the sixth
What is it with men and basketball? The wife of my friend once said “don’t you get tired of watching basketball? Friday, Saturday, Sunday and weekdays all you do is watch the same sport!” Some people just don’t understand it. A lot of people say that it’s a world wide phenomenon but for me its something that started almost thirty years ago when i was a freshman in High School. First I fell in love with the Ateneo Blue Eaglets who at that time were coming off a second place finish in the 45th season of the UAAP. Eventually the Eaglets would win four straight junior UAAP titles, all of them in my 4 years in high school. After four seasons watching the Blue Eaglets, I eventually moved on to become one of the most ardent fans of their Seniors counterparts – the Blue Eagles.
Twenty five years has passed and the result was eight seniors crowns and ten juniors titles to which most i witnessed happen. At the same time I have become friends with a lot of Blue Eagles and more importantly, the core of our barkada who I went to watch the Blue Eagles then are still alive and kicking in supporting the Men in Blue. Like what we always say, this is the tradition that we were immersed to when we were teens and this is now what we carry on and pass to the next generation of Ateneans.
Whenever me and my friends get together, the never ending topic thru the years is who is the King Eagle for the year. This decade we are very lucky to have lots of them specially now that the Ateneo team has so many fans who are not Ateneans which was caused by the fact that the UAAP games are shown on tv. There’s Chris Tiu, Rabah AL-Husaini, Greg Slaughter, Nico Salva and lately its a consensus that the Blue Eagles top man is Kiefer Ravena. Teaming up with Kiefer is someone who has the same basketball IQ and will definitely play big this year, the 2010 UAAP Finals MVP Ryan Buenafe. We had the rare opportunity to talk to Ryan as our barkada gave him a send off for his last playing year. It was a nice opportunity to hear the latest stories about the team, the coaching staff and the preparations for this season. In the past season, our barkada was always seen eating at the Adriatico restaurant after every game at the Araneta Coliseum. Ryan and at times some Blue Eagles would always pass by to share some laughs.
This season, the Blue Eagles are not favored to win it all. But to the team, what is on paper does not necessarily translate to the heart and soul of the team. Backing up Kiefer and Ryan are our bigs, the vastly improved Frank Golla, the comebacking JP Erram and former Youth campaigner G-Boy Babilonia. Kris Porter will sit out this year because of his knee problems and former Blue Eaglet Ivan Enriquez will take his slot, there is also rookie Vince Tolentino who will be around to contribute while the wings will be covered by often injured Gwynne Capacio, the vastly improved Von Pessumal and the second coming of Mr Excitement – Chris “Awesome” Newsome. The guards will be led by a 5-peat seeking Juami Tiongson, the defensive demon Nico Elorde, the much improved Isaac Lim Team B call ups Earl Murphy and Fran Asuncion and rookie three point specialist Anton Asistio. The team is a mix of battle tested veterans and just the right up and coming players who will be able to contribute just enough for the team. In the UAAP Press conference the Blue Eagles were seeded sixth which to the fans is an insult but to the Coach is a challenge. Coach Bo Said, whatever happens the Ateneo community demands a lot from me to excel this year.
Favored to win it all this year is the National University Bulldogs who will have 2 time MVP Ray Parks, mythical 5 selectee Emmanuel Mbe and a solid supporting cast that includes another African player Alfred Aroga. The University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers still have the troika of Jeric Teng, Karim Abdul and Aljon Mariano. The University of the East Red Warriors have one of the best point guards in college Basketball in Roi Sumang and a beast in middle with Charles Mammie who will be backed up by old reliables in Chris Javier, JP Noble and Lord Casajeros. The Far Eastern University Tamaraws on the other hand will parade a new coach in Nash Racela who is tasked to make RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo produce good music together. The DLSU Green Archers who made a lot of noise during the off season has become badly depleted that they just submitted a 13 man line up for this season. Leading the Archer’s is the slippery LA Revilla,the sweet shooting Almond Vosotros, rookie of the year Jeron Teng and big men Arnold Van Opstal and Norberto Torres. To wrap things up, the UP Fighting Maroons had a lot of veterans leave but are optimistic with their new acquisitions. The Maroons will have Center Chris Ball to lean on while the comebacking Sam Marata will most probably be the focal point of their offense.
There are teams that play hard, play with pride and play with heart. What separates the Blue Eagles from all their counterparts is that all of them have all those qualities which eventually translates to wins and hopefully another Bonfire in Katipunan. This year, the "felllow-SIX" of the ring for a six- peat is quite harder for this team, its even harder than the 2010 conquest but as Ryan said it is doable and not impossible, they just have to believe in themselves to will it to happen. To my barkada, its the UAAP season once again, let the ticket hunting begin. Good luck to the Ateneo Blue Eagles, we are still belieVIng that we will win it all and we pray that at the end of the season we will all be cheering ANIM-OH ATENEO!