MANILA, Philippines -- Ateneo de Manila University on Monday confirmed that it has recruited Filipino-Italian guard Gabriel Gomez to its men's basketball program.
Gomez, 20, will be eligible to play in UAAP Season 83. He will enter the school as a graduate student, and is expected to have five years of eligibility for the Blue Eagles.
"It's (been) a dream since I was a kid," Gomez said of his decision to attend Ateneo. "I always watch Ateneo. When they offered me, 'di ko pinag-isipan. Ina-accept ko agad. Minsan lang po magka-ganoong opportunity, so I decided to go."
Gomez has seen action in the 2019 Chooks-to-Go NBTC national finals, having played for the Italy Europe Proudly Pinoy squad.
He has also played in several Filipino leagues in Italy, establishing himself as one of the top young guards in the country.
Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin said that Gomez "ticks all the boxes" in terms of what they're looking for in their basketball program.
"In our program, we're always looking for high character guys," he said. "After speaking with Gab and his family, it's evident to us that this is an outstanding young man. That's a great place to start with our recruits."
Gomez can play both point guard and shooting guard spots, and Baldwin believes his "European game" will fit into the system that he has installed in Ateneo.
"I see his adjustment to Ateneo basketball (going) fairly seamlessly," he added. "It'll be a bit more difficult with the UAAP, but with some summer league games, the opportunity to play with his teammates, to go on tour, do all the things that we do, I think his talents are gonna translate very easily."
"We're excited to have this caliber of a player," Baldwin also said. "I think it bodes well for the future of our program, and complement the other players we have and that we'll be getting in our roster."
Gomez joins a team that has dominated the UAAP in the past three years. Ateneo is coming off a perfect campaign in Season 82 that led to its third consecutive championship. But the Blue Eagles have also lost the core of their program -- Isaac Go, Matt and Mike Nieto, Thirdy Ravena, and Adrian Wong -- to graduation.
Nonetheless, Gomez will join a team that is still expected to be the top contender. Ateneo still has former Rookie of the Year Ange Kouame, do-it-all forward Will Navarro, and rising star SJ Belangel.
"Medyo pressure po dahil nga po champion po sila pero it's exciting because Ateneo is Ateneo," he said.