In Las Vegas (L-R): Hubert Cani, Clint Doliguez, Thirdy Ravena, John Apacible, Arvin Tolentino, Isaac Go, Aaron Black, Jay Javelosa
Let me quote Pat Riley on this one, is the Ateneo Basketball team rebuilding or retooling for season 77? One side of the coin says Blue Eagles are rebuilding since the roster is filled with five legitimate rookies, (would have been six) the most that the team had since 2008 when Ryan B., Nico S., Justin C. and Vince B. came in together with Tonino to help the new era of Ateneo basketball. The other side of the coin says the Blue Eagles are retooling since the players they got addressed their needs and would probably be the surprise team of the season.
Will this be Kiefer's breakout year?
Like the rosary, the Hail Mary squad is full of mysteries because this year instead of joining the usual pre-season tournaments here in the country, the Blue Eagles had their usual visit to Las Vegas in the USA and had some pre-season games in Japan and Korea. The Blue and White hopefuls are raring to see their team play and are praying that this year, the path to redemption is quite clearer than Season 76.
Chris "Awesome" Newsome
Leading the team is the Phenom Kiefer Ravena and the awesome Chris Newsome. A lot would be on their shoulders mainly on offense and also on defense. The awesome twosome will be complemented by three more veterans who will ably back them up. Nico Elorde, Von Pessumal and Gwynne Capacio will be the guiding force of the the awesome –twosome as this three hard nosed veterans will help out in easing up the load of the two may it be in offense or in defense. Our frontline is quite better that last year since it will be headed by the 6-7 transferee Ponso Gotladera. Helping Ponso in front are the two centers who got injured last year, G-Boy Babilonia and Kris Porter. Expect the three to be banged up this year and any contribution from them will be welcomed since their primary roles would be to defend first and then shoot an occasional hook shot, or make a putback or just simply box out. Completing the returnees are Vince Tolentino, Isaac Lim and Anton Asistio.
Arvin is ready to show what he's made of
One of the positive notes this year are the rookies that we got. The fabulous five has the highly touted power forward Arvin Tolentino, the UAAP Juniors MVP Thirdy Ravena, the sweet shooting Clint Doliguez and the twin bangers John Apacible and Jay Javelosa. I think the fate of the Blue Eagles will lie on the five! If three of the five would come out with monster rookie seasons to help Ravena and Newsome on offense, to clog the middle with the centers and to shoot with Von, Nico and Gwynne then you have another cinderella finish for the Blue and White.
Von Pessumal leads the fastbreak
There is so much speculation that has been coming out from the forums and from many sources about the campaign of the Blue Eagles this season. Since a lot of us were not able to see them in the off season we are all just thinking of how they will be with their line-up. So to make things easier I have talked to two Blue Eagles, Gwyne Capacio and Nico Elorde and asked them some questions about the Blue Eagles this year.
Nico E. shooting a Thureee!!!
There are too many new faces this year, how will you address team chemistry?
GWYNE: “ The team is pretty much gelled up so you can expect us to play together this coming season.”
NICO : “For this summer and months after UAAP S76 we had a lot of trips that helped us bond as a team. We also accepted each other’s role and trust our coaches on their decisions.”
Hoping that Kris Porter can be an effective low post threat this year
We ran out of offensive options last year, this year do we have more of that?
GWYNE: “ The rookies this year can really play so that’s a big plus for the team in terms of offense.
NICO: “I think yes we have a balanced team this year which can make it more challenging for our opponents because everyone serves as a threat on the court.”
Gwyne Capacio scores vs. Perpetual
Last year, we got creamed inside the paint, do we have better inside defense this year?
GWYNE: “ Since we’re a small team, we really have to work double time on defense. So during the offseason, we really worked on our defense.”
NICO: “For me I would say Yes because we have a handful of big men this year that can match up with the other team’s bigs!”
The Blue Eagle Brains
Who among the new assistant Coaches helped you a lot?
GWYNE: "It's not just the new coaches like Coach Ronnie and Coach Xavi but the other Coaches as well. They worked together to help the team and that's really good for us."
NICO: " All of them are very helpful especially Coach Ronnie who helped me improve my decision making and Coach Ricky who helped me improve my defense."
This is not Coach Sandy A. reborn, this is Ponso Gotladera driving to the hoop
DLSU is poised to repeat, how can we derail them?
GWYNE: " We can't really promise to beat them, but you can definitely expect our team to fight and give it our best coming into this season."
NICO: " We just have to play solid defense. I think that will be the key for us to bring back the crown to Katipunan. We just have to take it one game at a time and improve as a team every game."
Rookie John Apacible mixing it up
How will you rank the teams after the eliminations?
GWYNE: “ Honestly I haven’t really thought about that since a lot of teams this season are strong. Most probably DLSU, UST,UE and of course Us (Ateneo).
NICO: “Its very had to detemine. I think it will be a roller coaster type of season this year so I really can’t tell. But I think the final four will be Us (Ateneo), DLSU, UE & UST.”
Fearless Forecast: “Ateneo All the wAy!
Add to that what Team Manager and former Blue Eagle, Epok Quimpo. This is what he said.
“There are a lot of new faces in the Ateneo Blue Eagles this year and I can say that the team chemistry is quite okay. The trainings and team building that we had helped a lot to create a nice bond for the team. The Rookies were able to adjust to what was laid down as well. Over-all, the Japan and Korea trips made the team aware of the strengths that they can capitalize on and the weaknesses to improve on. It also gave us a venue to see how we play as a team coming to the UAAP. Just like the Blue Eagle teams before, we are targetting the final four first and then take it from there. If there is one thing that we will guarantee is that the team will give the UAAP Season 77 One Big Fight!”
The Blue Eagles are all smiles
You have to hand it to Gwynne and Nico for believing in team. For me, if you don’ think that our team will make it all the way then there is no sense in playing on. At the same time, Epok addressed the team’s chemistry as we also have to consider that there are also new assistant coaches in former San Beda College Coach Ronnie Magsanoc and former UP Maroons Coach Ricky Dandan.
A different kind of team picture, At the Olympic Park in Seoul, South Korea
If I were to give a dream scenario for our team, I would say it should be like what the 2008 Blue Eagles did with the team being led by Chris Tiu. In the first round it was the veterans leading the team and helping the rookies get accustomed to college ball. By the second round, the rookies got enough experience and were contributing consistently and defending well. I think we now have the tools to make it all the way, the only question now is how fast we can sharpen these tools to be able to beat the defending champs. The road to the top of the UAAP Men's basketball tournament is quite shaky, crooked and full of challenges, but as the say there is no easy way to the top and that the more the challenges are, the sweeter the victory. So once again, lets support the Ateneo Blue Eagles this season and cheer for the Blue and White. See you in the games.
Thanks to Fr. Nemy Que, Coach Jon Jacinto, Mon Rubio and the BYU-Hawaii site for the pictures