Posted by: sportsandbeans | August 29, 2007

Ateneo and UAAP Season 70.

By Migs

Wow, it’s been some time since I’ve written anything here. Welcome back to me!

Okay, we’re in round 2 of UAAP season 70. The UE Red Warriors are kicking major butt, sporting a flawless win-loss record. Returning DeLa Salle University has held on to second place with unreleting tenacity, while schools like National University, defending champions the University of Santo Tomas, and Ateneo De Manila University have been clawing at one another towards nabbing the 3rd and 4th spots (with the way UE and La Salle have been playing, the 3rd and 4th spots seem more like seats over a volcano’s crater than “tickets to the promised land”).

How does Ateneo De Manila fare in the scheme of things? Do they have a shot in hell at getting to the finals, or even winning it all?

The Blue Eagles, like last season, aren’t lacking in terms of size. Severino Baclao, Jobe Nkemakolam, Claiford Arao, and Rabah Al Hussani have provided a lot of muscle in the 3rd and 4th spots. This foursome may be imposing during man-to-man halfcourt defensve sets, but once the game speeds up, they tend to lag behind, leaving rather large pathways in the paint and lanes open for their opponents’ exploitation.

Chris Tiu is in his final year as an Ateneo gunner, and while he doesn’t possess the raw athleticism of JC Intal, or the overall savvy and leadership skill of LA Tenorio, Tiu is a decent defender, and a gifted shooter. If guys like Arao and Jobe can become some sort of post threats, then Chris will have all day to light it up from the outside. How did Larry Fonacier make his money anyway? Why, with steady hands and help from bruiser Enrico Villanueva commanding double teams, of course.

Newbie Kirk Long is to Ateneo as someone like Matt Barnes was to the Golden State Warriors in last season’s NBA Playoffs. Long’s a high energy guard who has a decent jump shot, and a fearless knack for getting to the basket and drawing contact. Yes, his decision making could still use some maturing, but he does have one intangible that Norman Black seems to be trying to hone early on- excellent ball sense. This kid’s got a radar or where every lose ball bounces. That, in turn, allows him to work towards saving possessions, getting garbage points, and making big plays. On the whole, look for Long to be, actually, the X-factor in the Eagles’ success this season, and in those that have yet to be.

Zion Laterre is the more one-dimensional, scrappy, version of Kirk. Zion won’t score 20 on you, but he will salvage for you a possession or two, while maybe scoring on an “and 1” play off a missed 3 point shot. Think of this fellow as the Jerome Williams-ish (known in NBA circles as “The Junkyard Dog”) cager amongst the boys from Loyola Heights.

Two players I am a bit wary of are Jai Reyes and Eric Salamat. Jai Reyes is a JJ Redick sort of player who likes to shoot, but can’t create that much one-on-one. Salamat is the Asian version of Stephon Marbury, someone who has dazzling isolation play skill, but not a good enough a jump shot (not to mention, enough leadership skills to make those around him blossom), to be quite unstoppable. At the head of teams without dominating centers, is a sly one or two. Ateneo doesn’t have that at this point, in my view. What they do have are two little men who require the ball in their hands to be effective.

That, my friends, is not the most auspicious of tags to don at this point in the college basketball season. No, no.

The Blue Eagles will most likely make it to the UAAP Final Four after heated battles with UST and NU, but will most likely fall to either UE or La Salle in 1 game. Personally, I think Ateneo stands a better shot at pulling of an Ateneo circa-2002 via booking a ticket into the final four against the Green Archers. The guys in green have size, like to run, and have a tendency to go one-on-one (i.e. Tang/Casio). So does Ateneo. Through the whole ADMU-La Salle rivalry and the emotions it brings to the table, and what you have, then, is a battle the Eagles can win. It’ll be tight, and if luck in the form of a tiebreaking 3 pointer courtesy of Chris Tiu (enter sound of a thousand shrieking Ateneo girls), a running layup by Jai Reyes, or, a nifty up and under move by Ford Arao comes along at the right time, Katipunan could rock itself all the way into the UAAP Finals. Heck, La Salle is probably the more poised team right now, but I just have a feeling that if good fortune doesn’t carry Ateneo through, the sheer emotion will.

Getting through UE in the big dance, though, is another, maybe improbable, proposition.

The UE Red Warriors have romped through the past season with impeccable ball movement, decent shooting, and adherence to tried and tested offensive and defensive systems. They haven’t strayed, and so, success hasn’t deviated from its course, either. When they swing the ball around, one with even a satisfactorily decent discerning basketball eye will notice a Mike D’Antoni-like feel spread all over the young men in crimson red. It’s the controlled chaos that this discipline prides itself on that will probably beat Ateneo (or La Salle, for that matter) in the long run.

Hey, there’s always next year. Chris Tiu will be gone by then, but true basketball pundits will opine that hope will continue to resonate through the Blue Eagles’ locker room. The UAAP’s playing field has always been rather unpredictable and even season in and season out (sorry, UP, but you’ve been the exception to the rule the last few years). It’s because of this, a glut of (still) pretty decent ballers talent-wise and in terms of sports IQ, and the power of recruitment, that Ateneo will then, and always, have a shot at making some noise.

(Basketball isn’t about your “pretty”. It’s about your “gritty”.)




  1. blue eagles will soar this season

    ive been looking forward for that victory

    dont let thearchers hit you on thursday coz you definitely can defeat them twice

    goodluck guys
    and love lots chris, jai and kurt
    and to everyone ofcourse


  2. hey… wAzzup!!! mUzta nA poE kAU Kuya JAi…… luv yaH cUTe nYO pOe… mSrp pOE mGing ATENISTA noE pRo High SkuL P lnG POe Ako S ATENEO akoe MgAAral PwAmiz… glIng nYO pOE ha 3 POinter pOe kaU ni KUya chris Ha!!! bYebYE lUv yAh!!!

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