Eagles to start another dynasty without three that bannered the last one
As the din of the celebration of its latest title slowly died down, there’s no certainty at how Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin looks at the next UAAP season, with three really vital cogs set for graduation and professional careers.
What he knows is that it would be a challenge for the Blue Eagles who will be left behind and the players who would want to make the roster as Ateneo bids Ange Kouame, Dave Ildefonso and the tireless BJ Andrade adieu.
“We have a lot of recruits coming in next year. In our program, we don’t play around with the truth and the truth is, if you want to be a Blue Eagle next year, you have to fight for your spot,’’ said Baldwin following their 75-68 Game 3 conquest that dethroned the University of the Philippines (UP) Maroons in a classic ending to Season 85.
“The future is always uncertain, but I know these guys, and they’re fighters,’’ Baldwin, who won his fourth title in six years calling the shots for the soaring Eagles, said of their succeeding quest to keep the UAAP plum on their side of Katipunan.
Forthsky Padrigao and Kai Ballungay will again be called to hold the fort for Ateneo in Season 86 along with Chris Koon, Geo Chiu, Joshua Lazaro, Matt Daves, Anton Quitevis and Vince Gomez.
The 6-foot-10 Kouame, the Season 84 Most Valuable Player (MVP) during that UP championship drive who won three championships with Ateneo, is set to go under the knife to repair a partial ACL tear and meniscal strain in his knee that made him struggle all season long. After that, a career, possibly in Europe, awaits.
Talks are rife that Ildefonso, son of two-time Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) MVP and basketball legend Danny, will bring his act overseas, and sources said he would be suiting up with Suwon KT Sonicboom in the Korean Basketball League.
“They’ll all play professionally. I think that they might see diverse paths for them. Ange, of course, can’t play in the PBA, but he’s going to be good enough to play as an import. We’ll have to try and figure out how to help him with his future,’’ said Baldwin.
“Maybe [he could play] in Europe, maybe in Japan where I think he’s good enough to play an import role over there. He still has work to do in his offensive game, but he’s gonna be a pro for another 10-12 years,’’ added Baldwin.
Seen to forego the coming PBA Draft, Ildefonso will make his options known on his impending professional career in the coming days.
“Dave has an announcement coming up, so that will be exciting and he’s gonna be an excellent pro,’’ said Baldwin.
Andrade, who magnificently signed off from his collegiate stint after knocking down the all-important free throws in their Game 3 victory, can be a prized find for coaches in the big leagues.
“If you want a winner in your team, you want a guy who could defend, shoot the ball, whatever you say or run brick walls for you and love his teammates, get BJ Andrade,’’ said Baldwin.
Meanwhile, at UP, a vital piece in Zavier Lucero, who helped bring UP to back-to-back championship appearances under coach Goldwyn Monteverde will no longer suit up next season.
Carl Tamayo has an option to waive his eligibility and bring his talent overseas and Henry Galinato spent his one-and-done campaign with the Maroons that could shrink UP’s menacing front line.
Lucero tore his left ACL in a no-contact Game 2 play and made a brief appearance in the final game of the series on the free throw line when the outcome had already been decided.
“We’ll take it as it is, whoever comes to us. About the lineup, we still don’t know who will remain to play for the team. We just have to think what to do next once we settle who among them will still be there,’’ said Monteverde.
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