MANILA, Philippines -- Ateneo veteran BJ Andrade has decided to return for his final year of eligibility with the Blue Eagles, the guard confirmed on Saturday.
Andrade initially applied for the PBA Season 47 Rookie Draft but withdrew his name and was not included in the official list of 66 prospects released by the league on Friday.
"Nag-stay ako para 'yun nga, para makabawi. Feeling ko, 'di makatarungan na aalis ako ng walang championship. At saka hopefully, mabawi natin next season. Wala eh, mahal ko talaga 'yung Ateneo community, kaya rin ako nag-stay," Andrade told ABS-CBN News on Saturday at the Church of the Gesu.
There, the Ateneo community feted the Blue Eagles in a thanksgiving Mass, with graduating seniors Tyler Tio, Gian Mamuyac, Raffy Verano, and Jolo Mendoza making their final speeches as members of the Blue Eagles.
Andrade conspicuously did not make his speech, and Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin revealed that the veteran had reversed his decision and will now be playing for the Blue Eagles in Season 85. It is a massive boost for the program, said Baldwin, as they will still be losing four key members.
"Any one of these players could have come back, because they all had another year of eligibility. And we knew we were gonna miss all of them," he said. "So to have one of them make the decision to come back, it just feels really good. I know it feels good for the team."
Andrade averaged 5.57 points, 1.93 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game for the Blue Eagles, starting all of their games in Season 84 while earning plaudits for his work on defense.
He is expected to be among the leaders of the Blue Eagles come Season 85, said Baldwin.
"His leadership, and just the personality that he brings to everything, I think it's gonna be a big boost for the team," he said. "It's gonna get us another veteran in the camp that knows where we have been and knows where we wanna go."
Andrade, who had three points in Ateneo's 72-69 defeat to the University of the Philippines in Game 3 of the UAAP Season 84 Finals, said he is ready to embrace the leadership role.
"As a veteran na lang siguro, kailangan ko rin mag-step up, kasi ako na rin 'yung pinaka-senior sa team, and marami na rin akong experience na maitutulong ko sa mga rookies," he said.