ATENEO coach Bo Perasol has played down the effect of Chibueze Ikeh's controversial arrest on the rest of the team, expressing hope that the latest off-court distraction to jolt the Blue Eagles could turn into a positive.
The Blue Eagles have gone through a couple of uneasy days after Ikeh was arrested by a team of policemen after the team's game against University of the Philippines on Wednesday and later jailed overnight on charges of violation of the Anti-Violence Against Women Act.
While admitting that the events had stunned the players, Perasol said the controversy has strengthened the bond in the team and expressed hope that it could even be turning point of the season.
“Hindi ko pa ma-judge kung wrong timing or bad timing. It could be something to keep us together,” Perasol said on Friday. “‘Yan din ‘yung kulang sa team namin kasi hindi talaga sila nagkasama ng matagal.
“Itong nangyaring ito, we are forcing ourselves to be together. We are communicating, sending messages, and uplifting each other. ‘Yung connection nagiging tighter,” said Perasol.
The Ikeh arrest was the second off-court incident to mar Ateneo's campaign in a span of a couple of weeks, coming after John Apacible's drunken rampage over a traffic altercation that led to his suspension for the rest of the eliminations of the UAAP men's basketball tournament.
The Eagles have so far managed to stay the course despite the distractions, going on a four-game winning run to move up to third place at 8-4 win-loss - just a game behind No. 2 University of Santo Tomas (9-3) - going to Sunday's marquee match-up against rival De La Salle.
Perasol said there was a semblance of normalcy during practice on Thursday which Ikeh attended. The team will continue with their usual practices until Saturday, on the eve of the match against the Green Archers, Perasol said.
“Parang ang feeling ko, momentary distraction lang. Kasi siyempre, halos buong gabi na ‘yun. Wala kaming ginawa kundi mag-usap tungkol doon. We are sending everyone text messages,” said Perasol.
“We had normal practice with Ikeh and okay naman. Wala namang adverse effects,” said Perasol.
Even Ikeh, according to Perasol, seemed unaffected by what transpired on Wednesday, based on his performance in training.
“Actually, ‘yung performance niya sa practice, wala namang deperensya. Kahapon nga, parang mas energetic pa,” said Perasol.
The Ateneo head coach, however, admitted that they talked a lot about the situation, emphasizing that now is not the to lose focus on their goal of getting a twice-to-beat advantage in the playoffs.
Players-only meetings have also been held, the coach said.
“Nag-usap-usap kami and then nag-usap din sila (players). We need to focus kasi, ang task at hand is to get as many wins in the last two games. Hindi puwedeng mawala sa isip namin ‘yung ibang bagay,” said Perasol.
“We can’t let our guard down. We need to use this para ma-fuel ‘yung desire namin to get things done,” he said.