WHEN celebrations are done after the Ateneo Blue Eagles won the men’s basketball crown, preparations for the next season will commence.
And this time, it will be about the Blue Eagles’ title defense in the 81st University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament.
It’s early and the coaching staff has not yet thought about the new players coming in and those who will fill in spots that will be available when veteran cagers Kris Porter, Vince Tolentino and Chibueze Ikeh leave the team when they graduate.
But, so far, coach Sandy Arespacochaga said there are six candidates who will make team A next season.
“More recruits, and those guys (from Team B and the juniors) who can help us. But, we’re not (yet) thinking about next year. We’re just enjoying this,” said Arespacochaga.
Prolific scorer SJ Belangel is among the five members of the Ateneo Blue Eaglets who are being considered for Team A next season.
This is what’s in store for the 5’11” point guard, who is one of the leading scorers for the Blue Eagles in the ongoing UAAP junior basketball action.
Then there’s 6’3” Dave Ildefonso, Jason Credo and Enrico Manuel.
In team B, the coaching staff is considering 6’5” Marvin Berjay and the 6’7” Zach Salazar.
On the other hand, coach Tab Baldwin commended the leadership roles that many of the players assumed throughout the season.
“So you know, throughout, this team—we’ve guys who emerged and will emerge in the future as leaders,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin talked about Tolentino, who vowed to lead by example on the floor, along with the Nieto twins, Mike and Matt, and Anton Asistio.
He believes that when Tolentino goes, the Nietos and Asistio will most likely take leadership roles within the squad.
“I think we were leadership by committee this year. We have guys in there that are great character guys. Some of them are quiet. Vince is very quiet. He said to me, ‘Coach, I don’t know if I could be an up front leader for you. But I’ll do everything that you ask me to do and I’ll lead by example,” said Baldwin.
It wasn’t just Tolentino, Baldwin also talked about Mike Nieto’s outspoken ways during their campaign.
“Mike was quite prepared to step up. He said ‘I can be vocal, coach.’ I said ‘You’re gonna have to be responsible for the things you’ll say and he said, ‘I will.’ And I think after Game Two, he stepped forward and took responsibility for that loss. Of course he didn’t deserve it, but he was prepared to be vocal in failure. And I think that’s a great quality of a leader: To take pressure off people when things don’t go well,” said Baldwin.
Matt, according to Baldwin was a great leader on the floor. While Asistio is a a fighter.
“He’s (Asistio) there not just because he’s a great basketball player. He’s there because he’ll fight anybody who’s gonna take his spot in that team. His role in that team,” said Baldwin.