LIKE the proverbial phoenix, the Blue Eagles are determined to rise after a horror UAAP season.
Days after reports came out that Ateneo has secured commitments from San Beda high school star Arvin Tolentino and Thirdy Ravena, it has emerged that the Blue Eagles are also negotiating with La Salle Greenhills' Rasleigh 'Prince' Rivero and National University's Hubert Cani.
Of the two, the main target is Rivero, the reigning MVP of the NCAA juniors tournament who scouts believe has a game mature enough to make an immediate impact in the collegiate ranks.
That Rivero comes from Ateneo's bitter rival La Salle only thickens the plot.
However, a source from Rivero's camp admitted that Ateneo has long been in negotiations with the 6-4 forward, although he made it clear that the player won't enter into any agreement until talking to La Salle officials.
“Kinakausap pa nila kami. Pero syempre, waiting lang kami kung ano ang sasabihin ng La Salle sa amin. Dun kami ngayon eh,” said the source.
Two factors, however, could sway Rivero into making a move from Greenhills to Katipunan.
One is his closeness with Ravena, the Ateneo juniors star and reigning UAAP MVP who has already committed to joining older brother Kiefer in the Blue Eagles' nest.
The other is playing time, which Ateneo can guarantee at this point and which De La Salle cannot.
The Eagles have lost almost its entire frontline from last season following the departure of Greg Slaughter, Nico Salva, JR Erram and Frank Golla over the past two seasons, making new guys like Tolentino, Hope Christian School's John Apacible and perhaps Rivero central to the team's plans to reclaim lost glory next season.
On the other hand, the Green Archers' frontline is not only loaded at this point with Arnold Van Opstal, Norberto Torres, and Jason Perkins, but Cebu find Ben Mbala is currently red-shirting and should be available by 2015.
A Rivero move to Ateneo will also bring together the 'Big Three' of the high school ranks at the Blue Eagles camp since Rivero, Tolentino, and Ravena have lorded it over the juniors leagues in past seasons.
Cani, who has attracted a lot of interest after leading the NU Bullpups to the UAAP title last season, has told Spin.ph in October that he is still undecided on where to play in college.
However, his situation is a little dodgy. Not only will he need to sit out two years of residency if he fails to secure his release from NU, Cani may have to play behind Jerie Pingoy if he decides to join the Blue Eagles.