UAAP Basketball

Not a failed season, just ‘weird, painful,’ says dethroned Ateneo

Philip Matel

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Not a failed season, just ‘weird, painful,’ says dethroned Ateneo

HEARTBROKEN. Geo Chiu and Jason Credo of the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the UAAP Season 86 men's basketball tournament.

UAAP

The Ateneo Blue Eagles should use their disappointing Season 86 exit as a galvanizing point for the future, says head coach Tab Baldwin

MANILA, Philippines – Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin dismissed the notion of failure even as the Blue Eagles saw their UAAP men’s basketball finals streak come to a grinding halt.

The Blue Eagles reached the title round for the last six editions but hit a rough patch in Season 86, finishing fourth with a 7-7 record and losing to twice-to-beat UP in the Final Four.

Ateneo also endured its first three-game losing streak in the Baldwin era, with the school needing to survive a knockout game to secure a place in the semifinals.

“Certainly has been a roller-coaster season for us,” Baldwin said after the Blue Eagles’ season-ending 57-46 loss to the Fighting Maroons on Saturday, November 25.

“The record indicates that if you were a fly on the wall at all of our practices, you would see that firsthand. But I just got to say I’m really proud of the team, you know, because this was a season of battles, not just on the court,” he added.

“It was a really weird season. We battled to be better all the time to grow, to develop. We battled a lot of injuries.”

In Ateneo’s Final Four ouster, only Chris Koon cracked double digits in scoring with 10 points despite nursing a fractured foot, according to Baldwin.

Rookie Raffy Celis was also unavailable, as well as Andrew Bongo and Gab Gomez.

A young team with only foreign student-athlete Joseph Obasa leaving, Baldwin is ready to run it back with a promising squad that is keen on improving next season.

“A lot of people will look at this season and they’ll say it’s a season of failure, it’s a season of indifference. But you know, I choose to look at the glass being half-full. And I’d like to think that this season is a bridge for us,” said Baldwin.

“And we’ve just come out of an amazing era of Blue Eagle basketball. It’s very difficult to continue that, you know, just uninterrupted,” he added.

“There were so many disruptions in our program with the pandemic and players leaving before their eligibility was finished and it impacted our recruiting.”

Among the players that did not return from Ateneo’s title-winning team last season included graduating Ange Kouame and Dave Ildefonso as well as Forthsky Padrigao, who opted to transfer to UST.

Who will return?

Leading the way for the Blue Eagles next season is Kai Ballungay, who averaged 11.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.1 assists, and Jared Brown, who put up 9.4 points and 2.9 assists.

Koon was also a major factor overall with 9.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 2.9 assists.

Also expected to improve is Mason Amos, who normed 8.7 points and 3.3 rebounds in his rookie season.

“We’re looking at this year now as a bridge to what we hope will be a new era of success for Blue Eagle basketball. We’re going to be optimistic,” said Baldwin.

“We’re going to learn our lessons, we’re going to continue to develop and grow. And I think that the team that you saw this year will be almost intact when the team takes the floor next year. This can be a very, very valuable season for the Blue Eagles and our future,” he continued.

“And we will be reminding one another in the months to come about the pain that we have so that the fire doesn’t go out. And hopefully it will be part of the process of giving us the motivation and giving us the drive to work our tails off to get back into what we believe, you know, shouldn’t be the place we belong. And that’s in the finals and ultimately winning championships.” – Rappler.com

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