Ateneo Blue Eagles excited for 'crucial' Japan tournament

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 04 2022 07:46 PM

The Ateneo Blue Eagles will fly to Japan on Sunday for the World University Basketball Series. Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News.
The Ateneo Blue Eagles will fly to Japan on Sunday for the World University Basketball Series. Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News.

MANILA, Philippines -- The Ateneo Blue Eagles will ramp up their preparation for the UAAP Season 85 men's basketball tournament next week, when they take part in the World University Basketball Series (WUBS) in Japan.

Unlike other collegiate teams, Ateneo de Manila University has not taken part in the various local preseason tournaments such as the FilOil EcoOil Preseason Cup or the Universities and Colleges Basketball League. 

They will instead fly to Japan on Sunday, with a roster of 18 players, to play against universities from Japan, Indonesia, and Chinese Taipei in the inaugural staging of the WUBS. The games will be held at the Yoyogi National Stadium Second Gymnasium in Tokyo. 

"It's really crucial," Ateneo center Ange Kouame said of their upcoming tournament. "The main goal is we're getting prepared for UAAP."

"I'm really excited to play in another country. It's something that Ateneo has been looking forward to traveling and playing around teams and Japan is somewhere that I've always wanted to go," added guard Chris Koon.

"We're really excited to get more games under our belt, and just have this opportunity to show how we play," said Dave Ildefonso.

The Blue Eagles have traditionally trained abroad to prepare for the UAAP, but they were unable to do so ahead of Season 84 due to the league's bubble protocols. Head coach Tab Baldwin often pointed to the abbreviated preseason as one reason for the team's miscues during the tournament. 

Ateneo still emerged as the No. 1 seed in Season 84 but surrendered their crown to the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons in the finals, where they lost in a three-game series.

The Blue Eagles are hopeful that their trip to Japan will be the start of their road to redemption in the UAAP, although they admit that the WUBS will be a stiff challenge for them.

"Sa totoo lang, wala po kaming alam sa mga makakalaban namin," said BJ Andrade, who is tipped to be the team's captain for Season 85 after deciding to return for his final year of eligibility.

Ateneo will be up against Tokai University Seagulls of Japan, the National Chengchi University Griffins of Chinese Taipei, and Universitas Pelita Harapa (UPH) Eagles of Indonesia in the tournament. They open their campaign on August 9 against UPH.

"Ang importante para sa amin is 'yung team namin, kung paano namin sila iha-handle," said Andrade. "Gusto naming gawin, i-apply namin ang mga natutunan namin sa training sa league sa Japan. Sana makapagpakita, saka hopefully manalo sa lahat ng games."

The WUBS runs until August 11, with the tournament following a round-robin format. After the tournament in Japan, Ateneo will head to Israel for more training and pick-up games. They expect to be back in Manila by September 10, some three weeks before the opening of Season 85.

"It's going to be crucial, this Japan trip, moving towards the Israel trip, kasi dito mabubuo talaga 'yung brotherhood," said Ateneo team manager Epok Quimpo. "Hopefully, itong crucial na months na 'to, this is the exact preparation that Coach Tab was referring to, that we missed."

Catch replays of UAAP Season 84 games via the UAAP Varsity channel on iWantTFC, available for Premium users outside the Philippines.


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