HOMEGROWN. Without a doubt, Ateneo’s success in the Juniors division is translating to the Seniors division.
Of the 16-man lineup Ateneo de Manila University forwarded to the UAAP, half came from its high school.
BJ Andrada, Aaron Black, Gian Mamuyac, Jolo Mendoza, Matt Nieto, Mike Nieto, and Thirdy Ravena are now Blue Eagles, but also once upon a time took flight as Eaglets in the Juniors.
That kind of continuity is a badge of honor for the Katipunan-based team. “Nakaka-proud na ngayon, more players from high school are here representing the Eagles. Then ngayon, ibang level of competition pa tapos kami-kami pa rin magkakasama,” incoming third-year guard Matt Nieto said.
Without a doubt, no other collegiate team can boast of grooming most of its talent starting from the high school level. “It means a lot for the school kasi this proves that being students of the school comes first for us all the time,” co-captain Mike Nieto said.
Perhaps, Far Eastern University and San Beda College can come closest, but neither of them at present can say that half of the Red Lions or Tamaraws were once Red Cubs or Baby Tamaraws, respectively.
That they have eight players who have been playing together for more than five years is a big-time advantage for Ateneo. “Ever since high school, more than half the team, magkakasama na so it’s easier for us to get into the system since we know all of our teammates’ capabilities,” Mike shared.
He then continued, “It really benefits the team since lahat kami, matagal nang magkakakilala.”
Of course, they also know full well that such continuity will not automatically lead into championships. “For coach Tab naman, ang goal naman namin lagi is for the players to become better inside and outside the court. We want to reach our fullest potential so we can become a role model to other people seeking to fulfill their dreams,” the co-captain said.
Still, these once Eaglets and now Eagles believe they are more than capable of improving on their runner-up finish a season ago. “We are bound for a championship just like what Kiefer and Von did during their Juniors and Seniors years,” Matt said, referring to Ateneo’s multiple time Juniors and Seniors champions in Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal.
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