IN its bid to make a return trip to the UAAP men’s basketball Final Four, the Ateneo Blue Eagles are set to undergo intense training in the US and Japan in the coming weeks.
Team manager Epok Quimpo told Spin.ph that majority in the team are going to Las Vegas, Nevada to join the first batch of players led by brothers Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena who already left last May 11.
The Katipunan-based squad is set to undertake a three-week training camp at the famed Impact Training Center in Las Vegas.
“It’s the usual na ginagawa namin, although this time kasi mas kailangan ng team ang training dun eh. As we all know, eight players ay bago sa amin,” said Quimpo, who led the massive buildup of Ateneo during the off-season.
After a disappointing fifth-place finish in the last UAAP season that put an end to the team’s run of five straight championships, Ateneo decided to undergo a massive retooling of its roster.
The Eagles acquired former high school standouts Thirdy Ravena, Arvin Tolentino, John Apacible, Clint Dolinguez, and former national youth team mainstays Isaac Go and Jay Javellosa.
After their Las Vegas training, the Blue Eagles will get a idea of how well they have jelled and developed together as they participate in a one week pocket tournament in Japan by July.
“Importante yung Japanse league na yun sa amin kasi it’s an invitational and the participating teams there are highly competitive,” said Quimpo.
“Hindi na kami nakasali sa Fil-Oil tournament because of the out-of-the-country training program,” he added, while revealing Ateneo recently joined a pocket tournament in Iloilo and played several tune-up games in Manila.
Asked if there is pressure on Ateneo considering it is the team with the biggest names as far as new recruits are concerned, Quimpo shook his head.
“Basta our aim is the Final Four, whatever comes after it saka na namin yun iisipin,” he added.
“Saka the teams to beat still there are defending champion La Salle. UST although hindi ko pa nakikita, mahirap sila itse-pwera sa mga contenders, then there’s NU, and FEU pa,” said Quimpo.
“The other schools have also improved and are continuously improving,” he added.
The UAAP season is set to open shop on July 12.