Looking at the Ateneo Blue Eagles in WUBS

Rick Olivares - Philstar.com
Looking at the Ateneo Blue Eagles in WUBS
The Ateneo Blue Eagles have joined the pocket tournament in Japan as part of their preperations for UAAP Season 85.

MANILA, Philippines – The new-look Ateneo Blue Eagles have so far gone through two different spectrums of the game in the ongoing World University Basketball Series in Tokyo, Japan.

They blitzed and coasted in the opener against Universitas Pelita Harapan from Indonesia, 125-39, and then rallied from a deficit in the fourth period to win against Taiwan’s National Chengchi University, 88-78. 

And now, it’s a title clash against undefeated home squad Tokai University, which defeated National Chengchi University, 90-74, and crushed Universitas Pelita Harapan, 91-35. It will be a good experience no doubt.

The Blue Eagles, with no SJ Belangel, Raffy Verano, Jolo Mendoza, Tyler Tio, Gian Mamuyac and Troy Mallillin, have done well with Paul Garcia, Kai Ballungay, Andrew Bongo, JC Fetalvero, Jacob Lao, Joseph Obasa, Sean Quitevis and Inand Fornillos working well with holdovers Gio Chiu, Dave Ildefonso, BJ Andrade, Joshua Lazaro and Forthsky Padrigao. 

Based on two games, these are our observations.

The newcomers seemed to have adjusted pretty well to Coach Tab Baldwin’s system

There were no ball hogs, and that was impressive. 

Paul Garcia has done well and worked well with Forthsky Padrigao, who has been thrust into the spotlight well ahead of schedule.

I am not surprised by the showing of Kai Ballungay. In fact, you haven’t even seen his best yet. 

I first got to see him in 2018 during the NBTC and he was explosive. He is feeling his way in and playing within the system. His height, athleticism, and ability to shoot and drive will help in the four spot, which was a bit of a weakness last season. Just a bit, all right because Raffy Verano was terrific. 

As for JC Fetalvero, to be honest, I didn’t think he would make the lineup.  He had his moments in the high school team but wasn’t particularly impressive. Well, he is playing better and that is a good sign.

Joseph Obasa has moves. All he needs is confidence and more experience. The experience will teach him not to bite on every fake. The confidence and his good footwork will give him moves in and around that basket. 

I have always been a fan of Inand Fornillos when I first saw him with the UST Tiger Cubs (and later with La Salle Greenhills). I hope this kid is given a shot. I like the way he plays. No fuss. No emotion. Just play. Plus, he is athletic. 

A LSGH teammate of his, Jacob Lao is on the team. Jacob can shoot. He just needs to drill them more consistently. It would be interesting to watch his development.

Sean Quitevis could be a sleeper here. Even last season, he proved himself by making the reserve line-up. He can shoot and he can rebound. It would be interesting to see how Tab transforms him. Could be another player in the mold of a Raffy Verano.

You can see Tab giving the players exposure in clutch situations

I have always wondered about the substitution patterns. If there is anything I have learned these past few seasons, it is to trust Coach Tab. Well, it doesn’t always work, but you know he has the best intentions in mind.

I was a bit surprised to see how players were shuffled in and out in the last three minutes of the game against National Chengchi University. And that is good for a player like Chiu, who struggled against UP in the UAAP Finals. 

Even when Chiu was subbed in late in the game for Obasa, it was a good experience (even if Chengchi’s Mohamad Mbaye scored against him on the drive). Gio is moving better and is lighter on his feet. If only he would dunk it in traffic…

This team needs to be tested in the clutch because they folded in the finals of the last UAAP. And to think the WUBS opponents aren’t the physical sort unlike in the UAAP which is how they play finesse teams like Ateneo.

But… that is why the preseason is played. 

BJ Andrade will step into that fireman’s role

If you want someone to take that shot in the clutch, from the looks of it, it will go to either BJ Andrade or Paul Garcia. If Dave finds his cutthroat self, he will find himself in the mix along with Kai Ballungay. 

BJ emerged last season. Now all he needs is more consistency. Last season was a huge learning curve because he had not played that many minutes for Ateneo since his high school days. I think he will step into that role more so now that Belangel is in Korea.

The WUBS will be over by Thursday afternoon. Regardless of the result, it will give this Ateneo team a lot of experience.





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