MANILA, Philippines – Five-time defending UAAP champions Ateneo Blue Eagles will experience a "paradigm shift" of sorts when they take the court this year as they adjust to the changes brought by new head coach Bo Perasol.
The Blue Eagles have won five straight championships under the guidance of Norman Black, but are in for a season of change. Aside from a change in coaches, Ateneo will also have to adjust to the loss of star big man Greg Slaughter and stalwart veterans Nico Salva, Justin Chua, Tonino Gonzaga and Oping Sumalinog.
“The team has to realize that they’re in for a bigger challenge this coming season,” Perasol said during an interview on ANC’s “Hardball” sports show Wednesday. “And I don’t think that they feel that right now.”
According to Perasol, the Eagles are still feeling the euphoria that comes with being five-peat champions, but noted that expectations of the team are not likely to go down.
“I think that the love story of Ateneans and their basketball team has been there the last so many years, and they just hate losing,” Perasol said.
“They all understand that we’re going to lose our frontline, but we’re going to find a way to make sure that they’re going to be proud of their team,” he added.
Without Slaughter and Salva doing damage inside the paint, the Blue Eagles will have to be more creative on offense.
“(There will be) a paradigm shift,” Perasol said, noting that Ateneo will not have a “go-to guy” inside the post this season. “We’re not going to do that anymore. (The question is) who am I going to go to in the wings.”
“No matter that we’re going to lose Greg and Nico and all the others, we’re going to find a way to win,” Perasol stressed. “Whether we’re running or defending, we’re going to find a way to win.”
Although Perasol acknowledged the pressure that comes with coaching the Blue Eagles, there is one thing he is looking forward to – giving a chance to some of the Ateneo bench players who rarely played in previous seasons.
“I’ll be able to give breaks to those people, the people who have been in the team for some time,” he said, singling out forward Gwynne Capacio and guard Von Pessumal.
“These are the guys who are capable of playing, but they were not given a chance, because the team was loaded,” Perasol said.
But the primary weapon for the Blue Eagles will be Kiefer Ravena, the Season 73 Rookie of the Year and a one-time Mythical Team member.
“I’m pleasantly surprised at how skillful, how very, very good (Kiefer is),” Perasol said. “Seeing him up close and personal, it’s just amazing.”
“For me, given a little bit more strength, he can play any time in the PBA right now,” he said.