Ateneo gets ‘significant signing’ in Paul Garcia after SJ Belangel loss
MANILA, Philippines—Ateneo landed another sought-after recruit in Filipino-American guard Paul Garcia.
The addition of Garcia couldn’t come at a better time for the Blue Eagles, who lost their lead point guard SJ Belangel last month.
“We’re really happy to announce that he (Garcia) has committed to be a Blue Eagle,” said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin during a media briefing on Wednesday.
“This is a significant signing in light of what has happened with the unexpected exodus of SJ Belangel that left us short in the point guard position,” Baldwin added. “Nothing could be more critical for our program right now than this signing.”
In a stunning move, Belangel signed with Korean Basketball League club Daegu KOGAS Pegasus, forgoing his final two years of eligibility with Ateneo.
Filling in the void left by Belangel, the 5-foot-11 Garcia is expected to play a big role for Ateneo right away in the upcoming UAAP Season 85. He has two years of eligibility.
“A lot of pressure on Paul,” Baldwin said. “But we expect big things, we expect good things [from him].”
Garcia, who’s born to Filipino parents, doesn’t seem to be too worried about the big responsibilities that await him at Ateneo.
“I’m excited. Feels like a dream come true. This is always what I wanted to do growing up coming to the Philippines,” Garcia, who is still in the United States, said “I can’t wait to get started and I can’t wait to fulfill the expectations and surpass it.”
“I’m just taking it head on. I’m not scared to show what I have and I’m not scared to mess up. I’ve been working on things like this and working on [handling] that pressure for a long time,” the 23-year-old said.
Baldwin has no doubt Garcia has all the tools to make an immediate impact for the Blue Eagles, whose bid for a fourth straight UAAP crown was denied by University of the Philippines in a thrilling finals series last May.
“It’s not very often that you find such a talented two-way guard,” Baldwin said. “Paul is a very versatile offensive player but he’s also an outstanding defender.”
“He’s also coming into the program with leadership skills. Certainly theres’ a need for that in our program. Just a really nice fit for us.”
Garcia is expected to arrive in the Philippines later this month and join Ateneo in its stint in the World University Basketball Series in Tokyo, Japan from August 9 to 11.