WITH Ateneo floor leader Matt Nieto having, at most, three games left in his collegiate career, another point guard is looking more than ready to take up the mantle for the Blue Eagles.
Crafty sophomore SJ Belangel came up big in dropping a career-high 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting in just 13 minutes in Ateneo’s 86-64 mauling of UP to close out the elimination round last Wednesday.
The 20-year-old guard’s scoring burst in limited time helped the two-time defending champions seal the first 14-0 sweep and outright finals berth in UAAP seniors basketball since UE's feat 12 years ago.
Because of this, Belangel was awarded his first-ever Chooks-to-Go Collegiate Press Corps UAAP Player of the Week award.
Belangel was picked over Jamie Malonzo of La Salle, UE's Rey Suerte, Adamson's Mar Prado, and National U's Jack Animam for the weekly award handed out by print and online scribes covering the beat.
“Sa akin lang, para 'to sa mga seniors ko especially kay kuya Matt at kuya Mike [Nieto] at saka siyempre yung ibang seniors kasi last year na nila,” he said after yet another triumph over the Fighting Maroons whom they downed in last year's finals.
“Nung juniors, wala akong chance na makasama sila kaya lagi ko na lang nire-remind sa sarili na lalaro ako para sa mga seniors ko. Luckily, maganda laro ko.”
Belangel has managed to shine in an impressively deep Ateneo rotation with averages of 6.4 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists on 40.5 percent shooting from the three-point area in just under 12 minutes.
“Lagi lang ready whether pinapalaro ka or 'di man,” he said. “Basta pag nasa bench ka, kapag tinawag ka ni coach, laging ready lang. Kahit one minute ka lang, bigay mo lahat.”