ATENEO'S rebuilding program after seeing its run of five straight UAAP championships come to an end this season got a major boost when blue-chip prospects Arvin Tolentino and Thirdy Ravena committed to join the Blue Eagles beginning next season, sources said.
The 6-foot-5 Tolentino is widely regarded as the finest junior player in the country today, having won championships in all his years with the San Beda Red Cubs while standing out in several national teams in campaigns overseas.
On the other hand, not a few scouts feel Blue Eaglets star Thirdy Ravena is better athletically than his celebrated brother, current Ateneo star Kiefer, at his age.
Sources from the Ateneo camp have confirmed that both Tolentino and Ravena have already agreed in principle to join the Blue Eagles this season, giving the team the current juniors MVP of the UAAP (Ravena) and the Finals MVP of the last NCAA season (Tolentino).
“Nakuha na namin siya. He has already agreed in principle. We will make the announcements soon about our new players,” said the source who requested that he not be named.
Tolentino's arrival should come at a particularly crucial time for the Blue Eagles, who after winning five straight championships failed to reach the Final Four last season after losing starting frontliners Greg Slaughter and Nico Salva.
The Blue Eagles have also lost their starting center from last season, JP Erram, who has turned pro. Another big man, Frank Golla, has already graduated.
The 18-year-old Tolentino, scouts feel, is good enough to step in and fill the frontline gap left by Erram. The Red Cubs star had even attracted offers for tryouts with US NCAA powerhouse Duke and Rhode Island.
[For full story, see Red Cubs star mulls offer to try out for NCAA power Duke, Rhode Island]
Ravena, on the other hand, has attracted interest from the University of the Philippines Maroons prior to committing to join brother Kiefer at the Blue Eagles camp.
NCAA juniors star Kobe Paras believes the power-playing Tolentino should be a force to be reckoned with for Ateneo, considering the Blue Eagles' depleted middle.
“Tingin ko malaking advantage yung pagkuha nila kay Alvin kung matutuloy, kasi malakas yun,” said Paras, whose Dela Salle Greenhills Greenies team lost the last NCAA finals war to Tolentino and the Red Cubs last month.
“May shooting yun saka magaling mag drive,” he added.
Aside from Tolentino and Ravena, Spin.ph has earlier reported that two other juniors stars from the Fil-Chinese circuit - Clint Doliguez and John Apacible - have also committed to joining the Blue Eagles in their quest to challenge champion De La Salle next season.