Ateneo's Elorde has high hopes, realistic expectations for new season
MANILA, Philippines - After failing to make the Final Four for the first time since 1998 last year, the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles have a lot to prove in this coming season.
Third year Ateneo point guard Nico Elorde, who won a championship with Ateneo in the last leg of their five consecutive UAAP title wins in 2012, is aware that the task of bringing the Katipunan-based school back to hoops glory won't be an overnight task.
With the fast turnover of collegiate athletes due to graduation, ups-and-downs are a fact of life for teams. Ateneo was hurt in Season 76, losing Greg Slaughter and Nico Salva to the PBA draft en route to a 7-7 season.
But with Ateneo landing two of the most sought-after high school prospects in reigning UAAP Juniors MVP Ferdinand "Thirdy" Ravena from the Ateneo Blue Eaglets and NCAA Season 89 Juniors Championship Finals MVP Arvin Tolentino of San Beda, Ateneo's prospects for the future look strong.
"Of course it's gonna be a big challenge for us this year but I guess we have a better team this year because of those recruits we had, said the 5-foot-9 Elorde of Sucat, Paranaque, who averaged 6.57 points and 2 assists in 18 minutes a game last year, according to PBA-online.net.
"I think it's going to be a tough season for us. I can't promise anything but I think we'll do good this season and we'll give everything that we've got. I know that we've been preparing for this since last year and just continue to support us and we'll do our best every game."
Elorde, who is the grandson of boxing legend Gabriel "Flash" Elorde, says that their contrasting styles of play will compliment one another as the team becomes more cohesive.
"They're different in terms of their style of play," said Elorde. "Thirdy is a very attentive guy, and Arvin's very smart inside the court and he can play almost all of the positions.
Thirdy Ravena will most likely backup his brother and UAAP Season 74 Rookie of the Year Kiefer Ravena, who averaged 12.67 points and 4.67 rebounds last year. The two have played together since childhood, but will have to work together on the biggest stage they've yet played on.
"I think it's going to be a great season for the both of them," said Elorde. "Keifer is a veteran now, and for sure every practice I see him helping his brother out so I think it's going to be good for both of them.
The team will get together in May to begin practicing abroad in Las Vegas, Nev. before shipping off to Japan for final preparations, said Elorde. "It's going to be like last year, it's a great experience for us because we played against some of the future draft picks of the NBA so it's a really good experience for us," said Elorde.
Though Elorde has chosen not to follow his grandfather and two brothers Juan Miguel "Mig" and Juan Martin "Bai" Elorde into the hurt business, Nico still knows how to throw his hands.
And should he wind up in the aggressive Philippine Basketball Association, where knowing how to box can at times be as beneficial as knowing how to box out for a rebound, it will come in handy.
"It's good for footwork and sometimes...," said Elorde, as a smile crept across his face. "For example, if I have an opponent in the game, it can help me, if ever." - Rappler.com