Blue Eagles dedicate Jones Cup run to injured rookie SJ Belangel
MANILA, Philippines – One name that got lost within the Ateneo Blue Eagles 2018 William Jones Cup lineup was UAAP Juniors Mythical 5 selection SJ Belangel, who sat out due to an orbital bone fracture suffered against Adamson University (AdU) at the Breakdown Basketball Invitationals Finals.
After representing the Philippines well in the recently-concluded invitational tournament, team leader Matt Nieto dedicated Ateneo's Jones Cup campaign to its sidelined teammate in a celebration lunch in Ortigas, Tuesday, July 24.
“Alam namin na gusto nya sumama rito, kaso kailangan po siyang i-surgery,” he said. “Pero okay na po yung surgery, okay na po siya ngayon. So naglaro kami para sa kanya kasi alam namin na part ng family si SJ and of course, ilalaro namin para sa kanya talaga.”
("We know that he wanted to tag along [in the Jones Cup], but he had to undergo surgery. But the surgery is done and he's okay now. We played for him because we know SJ is a part of the family so of course, we really played for him.")
Thankfully, the fiery two-way rookie already got out of surgery and has thanked everyone who wished him well in his recovery.
Thank you all for the unending support that you all have given me.. especially for the prayers during my surgery... I cannot put into words how much thankful I am for everyone.. The operation was a success!! Thank you once again and God bless! pic.twitter.com/EW1wrTszJ9— Sj Belangel (@sjbelangel) July 23, 2018
Belangel has earned the praises of Coach Tab Baldwin in the FilOil Preseason Cup after leading the Blue Eaglets to a UAAP Juniors championship with the towering Kai Sotto.
“You know, he’s not gonna play like a rookie,” Baldwin said after an April 29 victory against the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons. “He has that mindset as a basketball player where he’s comfortable at any level. He’s got a bright future.
“But again, I just highlight with SJ his defense,” he added. “He’s always willing, always up pressure and he manages to defend very good offensive players pretty well. We know what he can do offensively, but when you talk about his defense, you talk about a kid with a bright future.”
Belangel averaged 16.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists in his final UAAP Juniors season. He has been used sparingly in Ateneo’s preseason tournaments but is already a fixture in Coach Baldwin’s rotation.
The Blue Eagles barely finished out of the podium at 4th place in the Jones Cup after a crucial 73-80 loss to Iran.
The players gained international attention for their gallant stands, with usual names such as Nieto, Thirdy Ravena and Isaac Go floating around social media. Team upstarts such as Angelo Kouame and William Navarro also turned heads with their contributions across the 8-game stretch over 8 days. – Rappler.com