Ateneo looking to sort out deep, talented team in Filoil cagefest
Rick Olivares ( - April 19, 2018 - 12:31pm

MANILA, Philippines — If the past two editions of the Filoil Flying V Pre-Season Cup are any indication for the Ateneo Blue Eagles under head coach Tab Baldwin, you cannot simply jump to conclusions about how they will fare come UAAP time.

Two summers ago during Baldwin’s first year at the helm, the Blue Eagles lost seven players from their team to academics. Yet the team, for all its challenges, made the semifinals of the preseason tournament and the finals in the UAAP where they fell short against eventual champion, La Salle.

Last year, they didn’t even get past the group stages of the Filoil tourney, yet they bagged the coveted UAAP crown; upsetting in the process, the highly-touted Green Archers.

This year, it will be more of the same for the Blue Eagles — an opportunity to develop. And see where the chips may fall.

“Right now, due to this particular point in the academic calendar, we have asked to have our players excused from Gilas Cadets,” the American mentor said regarding some of his players not in the national team’s lineup. “The team is already participating in three summer league tournaments; Filoil would be a fourth.  We have already made roster concessions to ensure that no player, unless they are out of school — meaning incoming high school players — will play more than two games per week.”

Added team manager Christopher Quimpo, “The academic school year is ending — and the school year ends in May — and this is the time where our players catch up and try to finish strong in their studies.”

Quimpo also pointed out that for the NCAA teams whose school year ended in March, they enter the summer leagues in better shape and condition as opposed to other schools like Ateneo who have adjusted their academic calendar to the international one.

“The NCAA tips off in late June or early July. Us? We’re in the process of starting to train. We don’t even get everyone yet because others are playing catch up with their studies. The UAAP starts in September so we cannot be in peak form now. We’ll get there,” said Quimpo.

Speaking of Gilas, the Blue Eagles make their Filoil debut Saturday, playing the cadets in the 6:30 p.m. nightcap at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.

Said Baldwin, who a few years ago, also coached the senior national squad, “As far as playing Gilas, I think it's great that players identified by the national program for the future get the opportunity to work out and play together in a quality competition.  Playing them, at this time of year, is just another chance for our players to develop and put to work the fundamentals we have worked on so far.”

The Blue Eagles have lost Chibueze Ikeh, Vince Tolentino and Kris Porter to eligibility or graduation. Competing for the three slots are newcomers are Will Navarro, who last played for the San Beda Red Lions during NCAA Season 92; SJ Belangel, Jason Credo and RV Berjay from the Blue Eaglets (the latter two played with the recently crowned UAAP Juniors champions); 6’4” Fil-New Zealander Pat Maagdenberg; former De La Salle Zobel Junior Archer Gabe Natividad; and 6’10 Angelo Kouame, who hails from Ivory Coast. Fil-Canadian Matthew Daves is expected to join the team after his graduation from high school in May.

The holdovers from the UAAP Season 80 champions are Thirdy Ravena, Matt and Mike Nieto, Anton Asistio, Isaac Go, Raffy Verano, Jolo Mendoza, Aaron Black, Gian Mamuyac, Tyler Tio, Troy Mallilin, BJ Andrade and Jawuan White.

The Ateneo-Gilas match will also be televised over ESPN5 and Aksyon TV. Tickets to the Filoil Flying V Pre-Season Cup are also available at the gate of the venue.

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