UAAP Season 78 Preview: Ateneo to lean on ‘influential’ Ravena
Head coach: Bo Perasol
Last season: 11-3 (First)
Key losses: Nico Elorde, Chris Newsome
Key returnees: Kiefer Ravena, Von Pessumal, Arvin Tolentino
Key additions: Hubert Cani, Jerie Pingoy, Matt Nieto, Mike Nieto, Chibueze Ikeh
For the better part of the decade, Ateneo has been the undisputed king of the UAAP but an early exit in 2013 and a Final Four loss in 2014 saw most people forget about the five-peat reign from 2008 to 2012.
Of the holdovers from the Blue Eagles’ last title-winning team, Kiefer Ravena is seen as the savior of the Blue Eagles.
Blue Eagles head coach Bo Perasol said Ravena understands he has to put in a little more as he becomes the ultimate centerpiece of a team looking to wrap the UAAP Basketball title in blue-and-white laurels.
“It’s good for us, he understands that it isn’t just his scoring, not only his individual efforts are the things needed,” Perasol said of the 2014 MVP. “It’s how he will influence or inspire his teammates to really help him out in this campaign.”
Ateneo got the shock of its life when eventual runner-up University of Santo Tomas took the last Final Four slot in the last match between the two teams in 2013.
UAAP Season 77 also wasn’t all too kind for the Blue Eagles when eventual champion National University started its playoffs with two inspired victories over them.
This year, Perasol is dealing with the exit of Chris Newsome as the swingman enters the pros and rookie-laden team that has yet to be tested.
“I’m not sure how to describe last year, I’m still waiting how the new kids will respond,” Perasol said. “The exit of Newsome is definitely a huge impact, we lost a scorer, and it’s not to say we don’t have scorers but I’m waiting who will step up from the new players.”
“Of course there’s Kiefer and Von [Pessumal] but I don’t think they’d be enough to propel us to the top.”
Ateneo has six rookies including two prized point guards and one a Nigerian big man who Blue Eagles will look to once the UAAP’s big men come marching on their paint.
Jerie Pingoy has served his two-year residency with the Blue Eagles while Hubert Cani got his eligibility green lit after Sen. Pia Cayetano’s Student-Athletes Bill was signed into a law by President Benigno Aquino III.
Perasol is confident his new recruits are ready mentally but he has yet to see they can handle the pressure of the UAAP men’s basketball.
“They are ready if the mental aspect is concerned, but I still don’t know once the games come you all know how noisy the UAAP can get.”
Manning the blue paint is rookie power forward Chibueze Ikeh who has to fill void Ateneo in the low post which has been the biggest weakness for the Blue Eagles since the departure of seven-footer Greg Slaughter.
Perasol does not put too much pressure on his new big man but he hopes Chibueze can at least do the part of the typical big man who rebounds and protects the paint.
“All I need from him is to become a decent big man, get the rebounds for the guards, play tough defense, and match up on the other teams’ bigs,” Perasol said. “Definitely he’s not in the league of Alfred Arroga and Karim Abdul but he gets the job done.”