[Here's Part 3 of our preview for UAAP Season 79]
Season 78 review: Finished third in the eliminations with a 9-5 win-loss slate, lost to Far Eastern University in the Final Four
Key holdovers: Thirdy Ravena, Aaron Black, Adrian Wong, GBoy Babilonia, Chibueze Ikeh, Vince Tolentino
Key losses: Kiefer Ravena, Arvin Tolentino, Hubert Cani, Jerie Pingoy, CJ Perez
Newcomers: Tyler Tio, Jolo Mendoza
WITH the end of the Kiefer Ravena era in Ateneo, is it fair to say it’s ‘The Phenom’s’ younger brother Thirdy’s time to shine for the Blue Eagles?
Ateneo coach Sandy Arespacochaga thinks it’s unfair to put the younger Ravena under such pressure.
“Thirdy is one of our talented players in the team. But first of all, if you are compared to Kiefer, that’s a bit unfair already because of what Kiefer has done and who he is as a player. Those are big shoes to fill,” said Arespacochaga, who will be with Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin in the Ateneo coaching staff.
The shoes will definitely be hard to fill for the Blue Eagles, who will field a young lineup following the exit of the two-time UAAP MVP Ravena as well as several key players from the pool in CJ Perez, Arvin Tolentino, Hubert Cani, and Jerie Pingoy.
The Blue Eagles, however, are embracing the challenge, Arespacochaga said.
“We have a young team but I think we will be fighting every game,” said Arespacochaga. “We are hoping that the attitude of the players will be like that. Nakita namin ‘yung glimpses na ‘yun sa Filoil na lumalaban.”
Expected to lead the charge for the Blue Eagles is Thirdy Ravena, who returns to the squad after a one-year hiatus forced by academic problems.
“Siya ang candidate (to become the next Kiefer) because he is the brother and he is one of the more talented players,” said Arespacochaga.
“The most important thing for Thirdy is he does his role along with the other players. He has to play both ends of the floor. The talent is there but his maturity and knowledge of the game will need to catch up. He is a bit up and down, which is normal for young guys,” he added.
Aside from Thirdy, also being counted upon are Adrian Wong, Aaron Black, and Matt Nieto.
“All of the guys need to step up day in and day out,” Arespacochaga said.
Ateneo also got a boost in recruitment when they got Tyler Tio from Xavier and Jolo Mendoza from the juniors program. The Blue Eagles are hoping both youngsters to grow up - and fast.
“Because of the youth of our team, we can’t afford them to play like rookies,” said Arespacochaga.
Meanwhile, Chibueze Ikeh, GBoy Babilonia, Vince Tolentino, and Kris Porter will lead the frontcourt for this rebuilding Ateneo team.
Arespacochaga said their goal is to gain a shot at a Final Four slot, but preached patience for the youth movement of the Blue Eagles.
“Our goal is to make it to the Final Four. We know that we can’t look far ahead. We have to take it one game at a time, especially now that we have a young team,” said Arespacochaga.