Ateneo Blue Eagles eye replacing key losses to 'go for four'
The Ateneo Blue Eagles will head into the next UAAP season without many of their vital cogs. Cagadas
Ateneo Blue Eagles eye replacing key losses to 'go for four'
Rick Olivares ( - January 9, 2020 - 2:47pm

MANILA, Philippines – La Salle and National University changed head coaches halfway through the scholastic year. Meanwhile, word from the University of the East is it has a short list of potential coaches to choose from. For its part, the University of the Philippines is rearming to bring that elusive crown back to Diliman.

It seems that teams are gearing up to snatch that crown atop Ateneo’s head in the UAAP. 

How will the three-time defending champions fare more so as they lost five vital cogs — brothers Matt and Mike Nieto, Thirdy Ravena, Adrian Wong and Isaac Go — in their well-oiled machine? Three of those names were in the starting unit.

For starters, gunner Jolo Mendoza and bruising forward Raffy Verano will return after missing the past season due to academics. 

Forward William Navarro — whose ascendancy and ability to guard the three frontcourt positions gave Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin’s squad a lot of flexibility — will be back for his fourth playing season (and third with the Blue Eagles). 

Second year guard SJ Belangel could step into Matt Nieto’s shoes as the lead point guard. With Belangel, Ateneo has a player who can take the big shot. 

Shifty swingman Gian Mamuyac could possibly step into Wong’s two-guard spot. But he will add a lot of speed, derring-do for his ability to get to the rim, and outside shooting. 

If Mendoza starts, either Mamuyac moves to the three or Fil-American forward Dwight Ramos could take Ravena’s slot. It is said that Ramos can capably fill Ravena’s large shoes. But it seems that those who keenly follow the Blue Eagles are high on Ramos.

Ramos, who will only have two seasons to play, could possibly be joined by his younger brother Eli, who first showed his wares to a homegrown crowd during the National Basketball Training Center National finals while playing for Fil-Am Sports USA. He will add depth to the point guard spot, and another brother tandem to Ateneo.

And now is the time for Tyler Tio to make that next big step. If he can be steady and consistently showcase his skills; he will really add a lot of depth and firepower to the Blue Eagles.

And there is center Angelo Kouame, who including UAAP Season 83 will have three seasons to play. The Ivorian student-athlete has a lot of upside to his game. 

There are pieces to replace — the leadership of Mike Nieto in the locker room and his overall hustle on the court. 

The loss of Isaac Go could possibly tell on Ateneo’s game as Baldwin had a center who could stretch defenses with his ability to hit the 3-point shot. How his spot on the roster is replaced remains to be seen although there is talent with their bigs Matthew Daves, Troy Mallillin and Pat Maagdenberg.

Will this be the year that former Batang Gilas forward RV Berjay cracks the lineup? Will Jason Credo finally be able to showcase his all-around game? Berjay is a stretch four while Credo has skills similar to Mamuyac except his is a better facilitator. 

And there is another slot in the roster to fill. Can they land some of the other key players looking to switch teams?

There is an unknown element of new players entering the mix. It remains to be seen who will make an impact. If they can approximate the losses of Ravena, Go and the two Nietos, they could look good in going for a fourth straight title. But as those who went to Katipunan have said in the last three seasons, they have learned to trust Baldwin.

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