AN ATENEO side that kept its preseason buildup from the public makes its highly anticipated Season 77 debut as the Blue Eagles on Sunday battle an Adamson side that is also on a rebuilding stage in the UAAP men's basketball tournament at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Eagles had their preparations abroad and at their own backyard, skipping the local tournaments during the summer, earning the tag as the ‘mystery team’ this year.
“The game would be big for us as it would, more or less, gauge how our young players will react to the spotlight,” said Ateneo coach Bo Perasol.
The Eagles and Falcons face off at 2 p.m.
Perasol explained the team’s decision not to compete in preseason tournaments following a dismal finish in the league last year. The Eagles failed to make it to the Final Four for the first time since winning five straight league titles.
“We really want to improve on our performance last season. Our youth will really be a big challenge for us. Tomorrow’s game would be big for us as it would, more or less, gauge how our young players will react to the spotlight,” Perasol added.
Adamson, on the other hand, ha an young squad and new coach in Kenneth Duremdes, who started the rebuilding process only recently.
University of Santo Tomas begins its quest to return to the finals when it battles National University in the 4 p.m. match.
The Tigers defeated Bulldogs in last year’s semifinals to make it to the title series. UST lost to La Salle in three games.
Segundo ‘Bong’ Dela Cruz will be on the sidelines as head coach for the first time, taking over from Pido Jarencio who left the team for Globalport after last season.
NU is also in a transition period as the Bulldogs will play minus two-time UAAP MVP Bobby Ray Parks, who is training in the US and is hoping to start a basketball career in the US.