Ateneo still UAAP favoriteBy Beth Celis
Philippine Daily Inquirer
IT WAS such a huge venue for a press conference where less than 300 guests were expected to attend, but this year’s UAAP host National University must have wanted to show off the posh, new The Arena at the Mall of Asia.
Owned by the Sys of SM, the Arena will be the official home of the UAAP for this year at least. The Sys also own NU, if you still don’t know.
NU board representative Nilo Ocampo, who is this season’s UAAP chair, admitted he did not know the exact seating capacity of the newest sports center, but said it must be in the ballpark of 14,000.
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Last Monday during the pre-season press conference jointly hosted by NU and television coveror ABS-CBN, I heard two prominent coaches utter the oft-repeated reply “We’ll take it one game at a time.”
Norman Black said it first—unofficially—while he and the Blue Eagles were passing through the lobby of the venue.
Somebody had asked Norman how confident he was of achieving a rare “five-peat” in the UAAP and that was his safe answer.
The second time I heard the same reply was during the main portion of the day’s program where each of the coaches was asked to talk about his team and its prospects for the 75th season.
University of the East coach Jerry Codiñera declined to make a prediction for his Red Warriors and picked out Ateneo as “still the team to beat.” Promising everyone that he “will find a way to win,” he said he will take it one game at a time.
The Warriors ended next to last (7th) last season.
As for Norman, although he anticipates every game to be tough and that every team is capable of beating any team, he said he is looking forward to a good year, which will also be his last in the UAAP.
Typically Norman, he downplayed his chances of making a five-peat.
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All the other coaches unanimously tagged the Blue Eagles as the team to beat.
Adamson’s Leo Austria named the host NU Bulldogs as “the contender.” The Bulldogs certainly made a case for themselves by sweeping their way to the pre-season crown. Adamson made the Final Four last year, along with the Pido Jarencio-mentored University of Sto. Tomas and Far Eastern University, which overcame a twice-to-beat disadvantage to foil Adamson’s finals bid.
No wonder Leo made the pronouncement that the Tamaraws, who will be led by former UAAP MVP RR Garcia, have the strongest and deepest lineup.
The lower four of the field claim to have “modest” aspirations and that is to make it to the Final Four.
DLSU, once the archrival of Ateneo, has not made a semifinal appearance in the last two seasons, although an Ateneo-La Salle game will always have a full-packed attendance.
“Our goals are modest,” said coach Gee Abanilla. “We aim to make it to the Final Four.”
I wonder what alumnus Danding Cojuangco, who has been religiously watching the La Salle Games, both juniors and seniors, has to say about that.
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