MANILA, Philippines -- Dwight Ramos, bound for Japan to play in the B.League, is confident that the Ateneo Blue Eagles remain as strong as ever even after he opted to forego his chance to play with the UAAP powerhouse.
Ramos transferred to Ateneo in 2019 after a stint in California State University, Fullerton, an NCAA Division 1 school. He would have been eligible to play in the UAAP in Season 83, which was cancelled in December 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The uncertain basketball landscape in the Philippines brought about by the pandemic ultimately led Ramos to take his talents to Japan, where he will play for the Toyama Grouses.
It is a decision that Ramos stands by even as he admits that he would have wanted to play for the Blue Eagles under head coach Tab Baldwin.
"I don't have any doubts of leaving the school, because I really think this step is gonna help me in the future. But of course I really wanted to play for Ateneo," said Ramos in an appearance on "Power and Play" with former PBA Commissioner Noli Eala.
"I was waiting so long for that. I really wanted to play with my brother there and share that whole Ateneo experience, the UAAP experience," added Ramos, whose younger brother Eli remains committed to the Blue Eagles. "(But) every time I thought the season was gonna happen, something happens, and it gets postponed again."
"I really think that I made the right decision here."
Ramos was tipped to make an immediate impact for an Ateneo team that is seeking a fourth consecutive championship in the UAAP. The Blue Eagles lost its core -- Thirdy Ravena, Matt and Mike Nieto, Isaac Go, and Adrian Wong -- to graduation, but still featured a loaded squad anchored by naturalized Filipino center Ange Kouame.
With Ramos in the team, the Blue Eagles would have been among the favorites again once the UAAP resumes, and it's an expectation that the player shares.
"To be honest, in my opinion, I think we would have won for sure," said Ramos, who averaged 13.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.2 assists for Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers.
Yet he is also certain that even without him, the Blue Eagles remain a powerhouse squad.
Still expected to play for Ateneo are Kouame, SJ Belangel, Gian Mamuyac, and Tyler Tio, all of whom were part of the past two title teams. Raffy Verano, who sat out Season 82, is set to return; Ateneo also signed a bevy of recruits in the offseason including Filipino-American Chris Koon, who transferred from Cal Poly Pomona.
"Even without me, the team is really strong. They have a lot of new guys, the people that have been waiting to play. Everybody's just been working hard," Ramos said.
"So I think, even without me, the team's gonna be super strong, too. I'm excited to watch them, too, when the season finally starts," he added.
The UAAP is hoping to resume in February 2022 with its 84th season, with tournaments likely to be held in a bubble format.
Ramos would be in the midst of his campaign for Toyoma at that time.
While he never got the chance to play for the Blue and White in the UAAP, he is confident that the lessons he learned during his residency year with Ateneo will serve him well in his professional career.
"Every time I make a decision, I never think twice. If I choose to leave a school, I'll take all I've learned and bring that to the next school. Then, whatever I learned from there, I'll bring it to the next place," he explained.
"I think that all these destinations that I've had, they kind of added to myself as a person, and also to myself on the basketball court. Skills-wise, mentally, I think everything's sort of helped me develop down the line."