THE future does not look grim and uncertain for reigning three-time champion Ateneo despite the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
With still a year left in the juniors’ play, Ateneo High School Blue Eaglets standouts Forthsky Padrigao and Joshua Lazaro are set to join the Blue Eagles later.
Understandably, Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin is elated.
“It seems to all come to fruition this month. It’s not by design. It just worked out that way.
It’s always a pleasure for our program to bring players from the high school ranks to the university because we see that as a big advantage for us whenever that happens,” Baldwin said.
“Both of these guys have been on the radar not just for Ateneo but also, they’ve been the target of other universities which is acceptable and common. It’s a credit to them, for their talent, abilities, and for their future. And we’re just proud, excited, and happy to be able to say that their future is going to be with the Blue Eagles. They have to finish their last year as Blue Eaglets, but when that is finished, they’ll be joining the Blue Eagles and training for Season 84,” he added.
The 5-foot-11 playmaker Padrigao, a member of the Gilas Youth squad, averaged 17.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 3.7 steals in the last UAAP juniors cage wars, while the 6-foot-5 Lazaro, a forward, was good for 13.2 points, 12.8 boards, 1.9 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.3 blocks.
Aside from the Eagles’ winning tradition, attaining education from Ateneo convinced Padrigao and Lazaro to stay.
“Iyong parents ko, ini-stress nila iyong importance ng education,” said Lazaro. “Given na iyong program ni coach Tab, one of a kind talaga and isa sa pinakamagandang program sa college basketball.”
Added Padrigao: “Quality education and good basketball program, parehas iyon mayroon ang Ateneo. Hindi ko na kailangan pang lumayo.”
The Eagles of Katipunan annexed their third straight crown via a perfect 16-0 season last year, beating University of Santo Tomas in the finals.
The UAAP is eyeing to launch its 83rd season, set to be hosted by La Salle, early next year.
Ateneo lost star wingman Thirdy Ravena, who is set to suit up as import in the Japan B. League, big man Isaac Go, twins Matt and Mike Nieto, who were tabbed in the special Gilas draft last December, and shooter Adrian Wong, who was drafted and signed up by Rain or Shine in the pro league.
Without their mainstays, the likes of 6-foot-10 Angelo Kouame of Ivory Coast, playmaker SJ Belangel, slotman William Navarro, wingman Gian Mamuyac, and guard Tyler Tio are expected to lead the Eagles’ bid for a four-peat.
Forward Raffy Verano and shooter Jolo Mendoza are likely to return to the squad after sitting out last year due to academic woes.
Ateneo will also parade blue-chip recruits Dwight and Eli Ramos.
Fil-Italian guard Gabriel Gomez, Fil-Am wingman Chris Koon, guard Kofi Agyei of Ghana, and center Joseph Obasa of Nigeria, have also committed to the Eagles.