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Rookie guard debuts in style for Ateneo five

By Jerome Lagunzad

Games Tomorrow
(Smart-Araneta Coliseum)
2 p.m. – La Salle vs NU
4 p.m. – Adamson vs UST

From the likes of workhorse Rich Alvarez and Rico Villanueva to towering center Greg Slaughter and up to two-time UAAP league MVP winner Kiefer Ravena, Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga has seen top Blue Eagles come and go for nearly two decades.

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But Arespaconhaga swears he could not recall any other Ateneo player who made an auspicious UAAP men’s basketball debut quite like how unassuming guard Tyler Tio performed in the Blue Eagles’ impressive 92-71 victory over University of the Philippines on Wednesday night.

“Off the top of my head, medyo matagal na ako kaya nagkahalo-halo na ang memories ko ng mga players. I guess (it’s up there), but well, it’s weird,” said Arespacochaga, 42, of the 5-foot-11 Tio’s efficient debut performance that highlighted the Blue Eagles’ second straight 20-point win in UAAP Season 80.

The former Xavier School sensation rammed in 14 points, 10 of those coming in succession to start the final canto that broke the game wide open, and made all of his six field goals from the field on top of two assists in just 11 minutes of action.

It was surely a notable performance coming from a highly-coveted high school star who needed to sit out for one whole year to iron out the kinks over his citizenship status plus Ateneo’s 86-65 conquest of Adamson over the weekend due to a sprained left ankle.

“It was a lot of fun for me. I was just trying to go with the flow of the game. I got open so I had to take the shots, and thankfully it went in,” said the Filipino-Canadian guard, trying to tone down his initial solid performance.

“Of course, I was very excited to play, but I wasn’t thinking coming into the game that I had to score this amount of points. I just wanted to make sure that I played correctly, follow coach Tab’s system. Thankfully, okay naman ang nangyari.”

Arespacochaga, who’s been with the Blue Eagles since 1998, isn’t quite surprised with Tio’s demeanor in putting the team’s interest first over his personal goal.

“That’s part of our philosophy: players come in and do their job. It could be that one guy is hot this game, next game another. So we go with the hot hand, and we went with Tyler in that stretch,” he said.