Ateneo finally wins with experimental roster; Maroons sign Stevens
While defending champion Ateneo is busy experimenting on on-court player combinations coach Tab Baldwin hopes to use when the 86th Season of the UAAP men’s basketball championship rolls along, runner-up University of the Philippines (UP) just snagged another towering, beefy presence in its continuing buildup.
The Blue Eagles will be parading one of the most formidable lineups in the next season, but Baldwin is playing reserves and aspirants in the FilOil Preseason Cup, and the squad was able to finally win one on Monday after scoring a 77-52 win over Centro Escolar University at San Juan Arena.
“It is an experimental period, a developmental period and we need a lot of it,” Baldwin said after the win and in explaining why Ateneo has such a woeful 1-5 record in the tune-up tournament. “We’re trying to understand adjustments and adaptations that we need in our roster and it’s an ongoing process.”
Baldwin will have Mason Amos at his disposal when the tournament proper comes, and the Eagles are listed as heavy favorites to repeat as their roster remains to be loaded even with the graduation of the naturalized Ange Kouame.
Only Kai Ballungay and Sean Quitevis are holdovers from last year’s title team playing here while the Maroons enlisted the services of Gani Stevens, a 6-foot-7 Filipino-American just in time for Season 87.
Stevens is the second player that the Red Warriors have lost in less than a week, with point guard Kyle Paranada also bidding the team goodbye last Thursday. His destination remains unknown, but rumors are loud that it will definitely be against a rival UAAP school.
Stevens, who originally arrived in the country last year for University of Santo Tomas, moved to University of the East (UE) last year before heading to Diliman.
“Adding another young, hardworking center in Gani will certainly give us more versatility in our front court as we continue to build our program in the seasons to come,” coach Goldwyn Monteverde said.
Stevens is expected to fill in the center position when Malick Diouf leaves the Fighting Maroons after Season 87.
The bruiser showed glimpses of his inside presence last season with the Red Warriors, posting averages of 9.4 points, 6.3 rebounds and an assist as UE went 5-9 in finishing sixth.
Stevens, just one of the squad’s big signings along with Seven Gagate, Luis Pablo and Sean Alter, will have three playing years with UP.