MANILA – The Ateneo Blue Eagles will be as strong as ever in 2019, when they gun for a third consecutive UAAP men's basketball championship.
Coming off a dominant victory over University of the Philippines in the UAAP Season 81 Finals, the Blue Eagles will lose just one player – veteran guard Anton Asistio – and will retain the core of their championship team.
"I think the future is bright," Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin said in an interview on "The Score."
"We have a lot of work to do before we start talking about results," he said. "But if you want to look ahead, we have a lot of returning players."
Thirdy Ravena has confirmed that he will return for his final playing year, even as clamors for him to go pro grew louder following a sensational performance in the Finals. The veteran forward averaged 29.5 points, 8.0 rebounds. 7.5 assists, and 2.0 steals in the two-game series, capped by a 38-point masterpiece in Ateneo's 99-81 triumph in Game 2.
Also set to return are twins Matt and Mike Nieto, along with reigning Rookie of the Year Ange Kouame.
"We have a whole group of seniors, Thirdy and Matt, Mike, and Aaron (Black) and these guys, and then you have a maturing Kouame who's gonna be a handful for another four years," said Baldwin.
"So I think the future certainly looks bright," he added.
Aside from having a "fairly intact roster," Ateneo also has some good recruits in their program, says Baldwin.
"It's gonna be a real battle just to make the team next year," he revealed.
However, Baldwin also noted that it was a little too early to be thinking about a three-peat.
"That's a long, long way down the track," he said.
"Again, (it's) talk about it, or get down and do the work, and build something. That's what we prefer to do," he also said.
Moreover, Baldwin stresses that at the end of the day, his players' development remains his primary focus.
"What I wanna do is help these young men, with our coaching staff, develop into great basketball entities, and their careers flourish. That's the dream, for me," said the coach.
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