HIS team is considered by pundits as a consensus title favorite but coach Tab Baldwin of defending two-time champion Ateneo tried to temper expectations, saying their chances of extending their reign hinge on the efforts they put in every game.
“We’re going to win every game that we play and that will take us wherever we deserve to go,” said Baldwin. “We don’t set goals for a season or for a championship. We set goals for our players so I think if we do our job, we will get what we deserve.”
The Blue Eagles launch their three-peat bid when they tackle the Adamson University Soaring Falcons today as the 82nd UAAP basketball tournament gets going at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao.
The match is set at 4 p.m. after last season’s runner-up, University of the Philippines, tangles with Far Eastern University at 2 o’clock.
Clashing in the curtain-raiser at 10:30 a.m. are University of Santo Tomas and University of the East.
Back-to-back finals MVP Thirdy Ravena, 6-foot-10 Angelo Kouame of Ivory Coast, Isaac Go, and twins Matt and Mike Nieto are expected to lead Ateneo’s charge.
Adamson lost forward Sean Manganti and Jerie Pingoy due to graduation, and will rely on spitfire playmaker Jerrick Ahanmisi, Simon Camacho, Jerome Lastimosa, and Fil-Peruvian guard Valandre Chauca, who moved to the Falcons from Enderun College.
After a dream campaign last year, the Fighting Maroons are out to complete the job this time.
UP will pin its hopes on 6-foot-8 Nigerian import and reigning MVP Bright Akhuetie, Juan Gomez de Liaño, prized transferees Kobe Paras, and Ricci Rivero, Javier Gomez de Liaño, Jun Manzo, James Spencer, David Murrell, and JD Tungcab as the Maroons aim to win their first crown in 33 years.
The Tamaraws have to make do without Prince Orizu, Arvin Tolentino, Jasper Parker, RJ Ramirez, Axel Iñigo, and Richard Escoto, and will be bannered by Wendell Comboy, Barkley Eboña, Kenneth Tuffin, L-Jay Gonzales, Hubert Cani, and new addition 6-foot-10 Cameroonian big man Patrick Tchuente.
The Growling Tigers count on athletic Beninese slotmam Soulemane Chabi Yo, who used to play for Colegio De San Lorenzo, new team captain CJ Cansino, Zach Huang, Renzo Subido, and blue-chip rookies Mark Nonoy and Rhenz Abando.
With prolific scorer Alvin Pasaol leaving the team along with Mark Maloles, Wilson Bartolome, JC Cullar, Jason Varilla, Jason Straight, Brian Lacap, Rey Acuno, and Shannon Gagate, the Red Warriors will parade a drastically overhauled line-up led by former CESAFI MVP Rey Suerte, former Ateneo player John Apacible, and 6-foot-9 Senegalese transferee Alex Diakhite of Diliman College.