MANILA, Philippines – A huge privilege, but a really tough task.
This is how the Ateneo de Manila University men's basketball team sees its upcoming stint in the 2018 William Jones Cup in Taipei, which runs from July 14-22 at the Xinzhuang Gymnasium in New Taipei City.
The reigning UAAP champions were chosen to represent the country in the annual tournament – the first time in a long while that the Philippines is sending a collegiate team to the competition.
"We're looking forward to it. It's a huge privilege to go and represent not only Ateneo but represent the country at the tournament," Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin told ABS-CBN News on Sunday.
But Baldwin also knows that they are in for a difficult campaign, as they are set to compete against veteran teams from Canada, Chinese-Taipei, Iran, Lithuania, and South Korea, among others.
"We got a really tough task ahead of us with the Jones Cup," said the coach.
"We just want to honor that opportunity with as good of a performance as we can put on the floor."
The coach, who steered the Blue Eagles to a 13-1 elimination round record in UAAP Season 80 before outlasting De La Salle University in the Finals, also sought to put their Jones Cup participation in the right perspective.
"We're not in regular season shape right now, our system is still immature, our time together really playing team basketball is still early," said Baldwin of the Blue Eagles, who recently wrapped up a training camp in Greece and an undefeated campaign in the FilOil Flying V Preseason Cup.
Moreover, Baldwin pointed out that even though the Jones Cup is "a big deal," it is not their ultimate goal.
"This isn't what we're preparing for. This isn't what our year is about, and frankly, this isn't what Ateneo basketball is about," he said.
"But it is a wonderful opportunity."
Thus, even though the Blue Eagles are far from being in UAAP shape, Baldwin is hopeful that his players can make the country proud with their effort in the Jones Cup.
"We're still two months away from being ready for the real thing, so you know I hope we can go over there and represent everybody as well as we'd like to, and as well as they want us to," said the coach.
Ateneo will be up against Canada's 3D Global Sports, two teams from Chinese-Taipei, and teams from Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Lithuania, and South Korea in the single round-robin tournament.
Last year, the Gilas Pilipinas national team placed fourth overall in the Jones Cup. The country last ruled the tournament in 2016, when Mighty Sports swept all eight of their assignments.
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