Dethroned Eagles hold heads up highBy Jasmine W. Payo
Ateneo’s ace forward Ryan Buenafe might jump straight to the pros after the Blue Eagles missed out on the Final Four for the first time in 15 years in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament.
Unlike in the past, the league will allow graduating players to sign up for the PBA right after the season as the pro league had moved the Rookie Draft from August to November.
“I’m planning to join the Draft,” said Buenafe, the former Finals MVP who played his last year with the Eagles. “I might decide by next week.”
League secretary Malou Isip recently said a player may join the Draft as long as his “mother school approves his application.”
As Buenafe and three other seniors move on with their careers, the rest of the Blue Eagles try to recover from having their hopes for a sixth straight title end.
University of Santo Tomas claimed the last Final Four berth after tripping Ateneo, 82-74, in their winner-take-all duel on the final day of eliminations last Wednesday.
“It’s a tough loss for us but we’re still proud of our players with the way they played until the very last second,” said Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga, who called the shots in lieu of coach Bo Perasol, who served a one-game ban.
“We won’t let this loss define us and what we’ve done through the years.”
Perasol said the team plans to focus on off-court matters before regrouping in other varsity tournaments.
“I will have to make sure that our players will have ample time to catch up with their studies,” said Perasol. “Those players who are not having difficulties [with their studies] may join the team in the various tournaments for the remaining year.”