MANILA, Philippines -- Ateneo de Manila University's triumph in the World University Basketball Series (WUBS) in Japan only exposed how much work the Blue Eagles have to do ahead of UAAP Season 85.
This, according to head coach Tab Baldwin who praised the effort of his players in the tournament held in Japan, but also stressed that they have a long way to go before they can be ready for the upcoming season.
"We're building part for October, for the start of the UAAP," Baldwin told local media in Japan after a 68-59 win against Tokai University last week, which gave them a sweep of the tournament.
The Blue Eagles earlier routed Indonesia's Universitas Pelita Harapan and overturned a double-digit deficit against Chinese Taipei's National Chengchi University.
"It's gonna be exceptionally tough, and we have an awful lot of work to do," Baldwin said of the upcoming collegiate season. "We're really not a very strong basketball team right now."
Baldwin is working with an Ateneo squad that has changed plenty since the end of UAAP Season 84, where they lost to the University of the Philippines in the finals. They bid goodbye to a bevy of seniors, and point guard SJ Belangel made an unexpected departure to turn pro.
Ateneo is now integrating a handful of new faces, including Filipino-American forward Kai Ballungay and point guard Paul Garcia. Among the holdovers are reigning UAAP Most Valuable Player Ange Kouame, Dave Ildefonso, and new team captain BJ Andrade.
"We've had a very consistent roster for the last several years, and we have a big changeover in personnel this year. So I think obviously, learning to play together, learning to get better as a team, but also developing a winning culture is extremely important," said Baldwin of his squad.
At this point, Baldwin said his team is "very, very immature," especially on offense. He was far from pleased with their execution against Tokai, where they scored just 28 points in the first half.
"We don't have the capacity to make many adjustments right now, so we have to get better at the basics of what we're doing," said Baldwin. "But ultimately, we'll broaden our system and we'll have more elements to our system, and we'll be able to be a little bit more tactical."
"But right now, we're like little kids out there, trying to play a man's game."
The Blue Eagles will have another training camp in Israel to build up for the UAAP Season 85 men's basketball tournament.
Catch replays of UAAP Season 84 games via the UAAP Varsity channel on iWantTFC, available for Premium users outside the Philippines.