MANILA, Philippines – Ateneo center Chibueze Ikeh is not particularly known for his offense. Since making his debut for the Blue Eagles in Season 78, Ikeh has gotten his points mostly through put-backs, with the occasional dunk thrown in.
A jump shot from Ikeh was rare, and he did not take a single three-pointer in his first two seasons in the UAAP.
Thus, it was a surprise when Ikeh attempted a triple against University of Santo Tomas in Ateneo's fifth game of UAAP Season 80. It came as an even bigger shock when he took – and made – another three-pointer in the second quarter of the Blue Eagles' game against National University last Saturday.
As if to show that his first "splash" was no fluke, Ikeh jacked up yet another triple in the third period, and once again, it found the bottom of the net.
The Nigerian big man is now shooting 50% from rainbow country in Season 80, making two-of-two against the Bulldogs after missing his first two attempts of the season.
"The coaches have been teaching me other aspects of the game, like dribbling and shooting," said Ikeh after Ateneo came away with a 96-83 win over NU, wherein he scored a team-high 18 points on top of his usual 11 rebounds.
"I just found myself open, and I had to shoot it, and it went in," he added. "If I missed, that's okay. The coaches are teaching me every aspect of the game, and giving confidence in me. It's just an open shot, so I have to take it."
That Ikeh now has the confidence to take long-range jumpers came as a shock to fans and even opposing coaches.
"Well, yeah," NU coach Jamike Jarin admitted honestly when asked if he was surprised at Ikeh's three-point shooting. "But you have to give credit to Ikeh, he shot twice."
Perhaps the only ones who were unsurprised at Ikeh's newfound shooting touch were his own coaches.
"We weren't surprised," Ateneo coach Sandy Arespacochaga said. "Coaches have given him the green light when he feels he has a good rhythm to shoot it."
Arespacochaga explained that Ikeh has been consistently working on other aspects of his game, even as he still focuses on rebounding and defense.
"He's shot a couple in the past, and people were surprised that he even attempted. But we see him shooting every day in practice, and he's been knocking it down," he said. "That's why it wasn't really a big shock or surprise for us."
"We've seen him do it already in practice," he added.
Ikeh is not the only Ateneo player to have expanded his skill set. According to Arespacochaga, their coaching staff put a premium on player development during the offseason.
"We try not to put limits to these guys," he said. "We teach them everything."
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