New-look Archers earn praise from Baldwin: They’re rugged, hardworking
La Salle is far from the team it used to be following the departure of Ben Mbala, Ricci Rivero and former coach Aldin Ayo.
But that doesn’t mean the Green Archers are no longer a force to reckon with.
On Tuesday, Ateneo faced new-look La Salle and right away, Blue Eagles coach Tab Baldwin noticed the changes to the Green Archers starting with big man Santi Santillan.
“Entirely different team. This is a big team, this is a rugged team,” Baldwin said after the Blue Eagles’ 81-75 overtime win in the Filoil Preseason Cup. “I think they’re characterized more by Santi Santillan’s toughness than they are by perhaps a lot of the glitz and glamour that was associated with the Green Archers last year.”
“I don’t see any of that. I see a bunch of guys that are tough, hardworking, they’re big, they’re rugged and you know, they’re going to be a handful for everybody because they’re going to make life in and around the basket really tough,” he added. “The paint is gonna be a hard place to play the game against La Salle this coming year.”
That toughness by La Salle nearly dealt Ateneo its first loss in the preseason after it climbed back from a four-point hole with 23.5 seconds left in regulation.
Baldwin was impressed most with Santillan, who has emerged as one of the Archers’ main weapons this coming UAAP season.
“Nobody is going to talk about Santi as the most talented player, but you talk about gutsy, you talk about clever. Watch him and his offensive rebounding he’s spectacular because he moves to where the ball is gonna rebound. He has tremendous feel,” Baldwin praised.
Santillan and Justine Baltazar provided the muscle for La Salle, combining for 35 points and 22 rebounds with the former University of Visayas star leading the Archers with a game-high 19 points that went with nine rebounds.