THE Ateneo community finally gets to see how new coach Bo Perasol will handle the reigning five-time UAAP men’s champion Blue Eagles when he gets his baptism of fire in the opener of the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup on Saturday.
Perasol makes his coaching debut for the Katipunan-based school opposite Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. title holder Southwestern University at The Arena in San Juan in the main game of a scheduled triple header.
The former PBA coach was installed as Ateneo coach last November to take over the place of Norman Black, architect of the team’s five straight championships from 2008 to 2012.
Perasol had actually already called the shots for the team during the opener of the Fr. Martin Cup last week at the San Beda gym, but the Filoil Premier Cup will see him handling the same Ateneo roster that will likely suit up in the coming UAAP season.
The new Blue Eagles coach said he’s just as thrilled to finally see the team play under a competitive atmosphere under his watch.
“I’m excited about it because finally I will be able to gauge what my team can do in an official competitive situation,” he said.
But Perasol pointed out the team is just starting to get complete as the build-up for the Blue Eagles’ bid for a sixth consecutive UAAP crown is nearing.
“Also I was quite disappointed that some of my main players are just starting to practice since I took over,” he said.
The Ateneo mentor noted the absence of JP Erram and Ryan Buenafe in previous team practices due to various reasons, but is confident the two can easily fit in and learn his system right away.
“Erram is still in his final stage of recovery from his ACL injury, while Ryan Buenafe just started joining us because of his D-League commitment,” Perasol said.
Overall though, he still has more reasons to be optimistic about the Blue Eagles’ chances under him.
Perasol is tasked to continue Ateneo’s winning tradition, but will have to do it in the absence of key players Greg Slaughter, Nico Salva, Tonino Gonzaga, Justin Chua as well as reliever Oping Sumalinog, all of whom played their final year with the school last season.
Despite the losses, Perasol said the team is slowly adapting after the graduation of the senior players.
“I think slowly, it is already sinking in to the team that our veterans are gone. The goal is to get them ready in a month,” said Perasol.
He said he’s glad the Blue Eagles are responding to the coaching change very well, while recognizing the fact that it will take some time before they can build a winning team.
“All of my players are working hard to fit into what I think would be the best way for us to have a chance at a title this season. However, just like anything with worth, it will take time. What’s encouraging is that we are moving forward.”