Blue Eagles launch ‘four-peat’ bid vs Falcons
MANILA—There’s no doubting Ateneo’s experience, depth and size.
But with most teams beefing up as well, Ateneo coach Norman Black braces for his toughest season yet as the Blue Eagles start their quest for a fourth straight UAAP men’s basketball crown Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Blue Eagles–boosted by the tallest player the league has seen in years–take on an Adamson squad also primed for a solid run at 3 p.m.
Rookies Greg Slaughter, the Smart Gilas national team mainstay standing just a shade below seven feet, and another former national youth team star in Kiefer Ravena give Ateneo a decided edge in manpower.
“We expect a tough season this year since most of the teams improved a lot,” said Black. “I think we have the talent to be competitive, but it’s really teamwork that has helped us the past years.”
Far Eastern University, last year’s runner-up, and La Salle kick off the double-header at 1 p.m.
Aside from picking the Blue Eagles as the favorite, FEU coach Bert Flores also tabbed the Green Archers as a contender.
“La Salle is very disciplined when it comes to defense,” said Flores, who still has at his disposal ace guards RR Garcia, last season’s MVP, and last year’s top rookie Terrence Romeo.
“You can’t relax against La Salle. They’ll pressure you from start to finish.”
Although Slaughter and Ravena have drawn most of the attention, Black said the Eagles still anchor their campaign on the veterans led by Nico Salva, Kirk Long and Emman Monfort.
“They’re the guys who have been through many battles with us already,” said Black.
The Falcons, who have yet to beat the Eagles in 28 meetings since 1997, hope to shed off the “inferiority complex” with an experienced cast led by Eric Camson, Alex Nuyles, Jan Colina and Lester Alvarez.
“We’ve raised our level of competitiveness,” said Adamson coach Leo Austria. “I think we no longer have that inferiority complex every time we face elite teams like Ateneo. But of course, we have to work hard because Ateneo is very disciplined in running their plays.”
The Archers are also expected to come in more confident with the big rookie trio of 6-foot-8 Arnold Van Opstal, 6-6 Norbert Torres and 6-5 Ponso Gotladera.
“We added size, but we still maintained our speed,” said La Salle coach Dindo Pumaren, who’s relying on Simon Atkins, LA Revilla, Joseph Marata, Luigi dela Paz and Joshua Webb.
Pumaren expects his returning guard Revilla, who was sidelined for two years due to an illness, to play a vital role.
“He has improved a lot and he’s very eager to play again,” said Pumaren.