MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo Blue Eagles missed the Final Four in the UAAP Season 76 men's basketball tournament, but took a big step forward in their rebuilding project when they nabbed San Beda standout Arvin Tolentino.
The 6-foot-5 Tolentino led the Red Cubs to the NCAA juniors championship and tantalized colleges with his mix of size, skill and upside. He eventually committed to Ateneo, where he will team up with another high school standout, Thirdy Ravena of the Ateneo Blue Eaglets.
The 18-year-old Tolentino readily admits that he is feeling the pressure that comes not only from being a member of the Blue Eagles, but also from being one of the most highly recruited players in his class.
"May pressure din talaga. Hindi naman mawawala 'yun, lalo na maraming school 'yung kumuha sa akin," Tolentino said. "Siyempre, maraming mata na nakatingin sa akin, sa lahat ng agagawin ko, kung worth it ba 'yung pagkuha sa akin ng school."
But Tolentino is also putting the pressure on himself, as he fully expects to have an immediate impact on the team.
"Ine-expect ko na magkaroon agad ako ng impact sa team, as one of the – well sabi nga nila, one of the best high school players, and as a prized recruit," he said.
"Ine-expect ko sa sarili ko na malaki agad 'yung impact ko sa team, at sana makatulong ako na makuha namin ‘yung championship," he added.
Tolentino will likely be required to step up immediately for the Blue Eagles, especially as the team lost key members of their front court to graduation. He said he is ready for the challenge, having already adjusted to the playing system of head coach Bo Perasol.
"Naka-adjust na ako, pero aaminin ko na noong mga first month ko sa Ateneo, medyo nahirapan ako kasi sobrang ibang-iba ‘yung system noong galing akong high school sa San Beda, then transition to college," he said.
"Iba 'yung sistema namin sa Beda kesa sa sistema ni Coach Bo, so medyo nahirapan din ako. Pero ngayon, hundred percent na ako sa sistema ni Coach," he said.
Tolentino also said that he worked on his strength and conditioning to get himself ready for battles against some of the UAAP’s big men, including Arnold Van Opstal of La Salle and Karim Abdul of the University of Santo Tomas.
"Iniisip ko sila Karim Abdul, Van Opstal, mas malalaki nga sa akin," he said. "Hindi naman ako sanay, kasi sa high school, ako na 'yung pinaka-malaki. Pag akyat ko sa college, mas malaki sa akin, mas malakas sa akin, mas magulang, mas experienced."
"Pero ready na ako, at sana, maganda ang maipakita ko," Tolentino added.