Blue Eagles still upbeat on ‘five-peat’ bidBy Jasmine W. Payo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
AS ATENEO coach Norman Black calls the shots for one last season, he believes his imminent departure hasn’t taken the Blue Eagles’ focus away from their goal.
“Right now, it’s not an issue,” said Black. “I’m treating this as a job that I have to do. Whatever the future holds, I’ll think about it when I get there. My focus right now is still Ateneo.”
Black—who’s returning to the pro league as head coach of Talk ‘N Text at the end of the season—said the Blue Eagles remain driven in their quest for a fifth straight UAAP championship behind the star trio of Kiefer Ravena, Greg Slaughter and Nico Salva.
“We’ll try to accomplish something that hasn’t been done recently,” Black said during the league press conference yesterday at the new Mall of Asia Arena. “But we know it’s going to be difficult.”
Season 75 of the basketball tournament fires off at 12:30 p.m. this Saturday with an opening ceremony celebrating the league’s diamond anniversary.
“We’re celebrating the emergence of the UAAP as the country’s premier collegiate league, not just in basketball but in all sports in our calendar,” said UAAP president Nilo Ocampo of host National University. “We’re also celebrating the rise of the MOA Arena. It’s an edifice that will make the UAAP experience many notches higher.”
Although Ateneo emerged as the consensus top pick, the coaches couldn’t quite agree on the top four.
National has also been tagged among the favorites after a strong preseason run behind last year’s MVP Ray Parks.
“We hope we can carry it over to the UAAP,” said NU coach Eric Altamirano. “The UAAP is a different league.”
La Salle coach Gee Abanilla said the Green Archers hope to return to the semifinals after missing out last year.
“Our immediate goal is to be in the Final Four,” said Abanilla.l
“All the teams are strong,” said Far Eastern University coach Bert Flores.
Adamson’s Leo Austria also placed his bet on the Tamaraws, last year’s runner-up, who still boast a strong backcourt with RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo.
“FEU has the strongest lineup. They have a legitimate player in every position,” said Austria.
“We have a more experienced team this year,” said UST’s Pido Jarencio.
“Our goal is modest, but what we can guarantee is that playing UP right now is not an automatic W,” said University of the Philippines coach Ricky Dandan.
“We’ll continue to go out there fighting,” said University of the East coach Jerry Codiñera.