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MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo Blue Eagles will again take their UAAP buildup to Japan.
Looking to defend their UAAP men’s basketball crown later this year, the Blue Eagles will try to do the same in the World University Basketball Series from August 10 to 13 at Yoyogi National Gymnasium in Shibuya, Tokyo.
“Well, as I say when people ask me about the UAAP crown, we are not really defending anything,” said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin.
“We have to go there for the dual purpose of playing our hearts out in representing the school and the country, but we also need to ensure the development of our team, system, and combinations for the UAAP.”
“Anytime we are in the off-season, we also have that dual purpose, and it includes winning. We have to make it a habit, and it starts with the preseason,” he added.
The Blue Eagles ruled the international collegiate tournament last year, but the field this edition doubled to eight, with Japan’s Tokai University and Chinese Taipei’s National Chengchi University also returning.
Rounding out the competition are USA’s Radford University (NCAA Division I), Japan’s Hakuoh University, Australia’s University of Sydney, Korea University, and Indonesia’s Perbanas Institute.
“I’m happy. I want as tough a competition as we can get,” said Baldwin. “We don’t know the caliber of the teams, but it seems on paper that the competition will be tougher.”
Unlike the other teams, Ateneo will have an exhibition game on August 10 against a selection of players from the All Japan University Basketball Federation.
The knockout tournament will tip off the next day, with Ateneo facing the University of Sydney. The winner of that match will proceed to play against either Perbanas Institute or Hakuoh University in the following days.
Radford will play against Korea U in the first round, while Tokai will face Chengchi.
The losing teams will move on to the classification phase.
“We are going there to win and gain experience for the UAAP season,” said Baldwin, a four-time champion coach.
Last year, Ateneo completed a three-game sweep of the tournament, defeating Universitas Pelitas Harapan (125-39), Chengchi (88-78), and Tokai (68-59).
Kai Ballungay also bagged the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award. – Rappler.com