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Ateneo dynasty in the making

With two championships in three finals appearances, talks of another ‘dynasty’ began circling among basketball fans after Ateneo completed a two-game sweep of University of the Philippines in the UAAP men’s basketball title showdown.

Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin gets a hug after steering Ateneo to the UAAP crown. (Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin gets a hug after steering Ateneo to the UAAP crown. (Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

A breakaway 99-81 romp in Game 2 Wednesday night gave the Blue Eagles their 10th overall championship and put in motion the possibility of them winning a few more – harkening back to the school’s five-peat campaign from 2008 to 2012 under coach Norman Black.

However, as far as current Ateneo mentor Tab Baldwin is concerned, winning titles is not the ultimate goal.

 

“First of, back-to-back doesn’t look so important when you put it next to five in a row,” said Baldwin. “It’s like a little bump in the road, compared to that mountain that they did.”

 

He added: “We want to pursue excellence. A championship is one measure of excellence, I guess. If that’s the by-product of the way that we do things, then we hope that we can continue to have championships in the future. But again, that’s not the goal, that’s not what we set out to do.”

 

For Baldwin, player development is his priority, and the reclamation of graduating guard Anton Asistio is a good example of that. The 5-foot-10 guard played his first two seasons with the Eagles but was relegated to Team B on his third year.

 

Asistio worked his way back to the senior’s roster even if Baldwin isn’t the biggest fan of his playing style. In the end, Asistio rose above his coach’s first impression when he helped the team win two titles as the Eagles’ starting playmaker.

 

According to Baldwin, his main focus is to help the Blue Eagles “the best players that they can be.”

 

Ateneo has the materials to continue with its winning ways for years to come since Asistio is the only graduating player.

 

Angelo Kouame – the center from Ivory Coast – made the most out of his first season as he bagged  Rookie of the Year honors. Thirdy Ravena, who won a second straight Finals MVP, is coming back for his final season next year.

 

Other players expected to return for a possible three-peat are the Nieto brothers Matt and Mike, Isaac Go, Tyler Tio, Raffy Verano, Gian Mamuyac, Jolo Mendoza and SJ Belangel.

 

The team played well in the elimination round, finishing at 5-2. But it wasn’t until the second round that the Eagles truly dominated. Ateneo capped Season 81 with a 10-0 run, including sweeps of Far Eastern University in the Final Four and UP in the finale.

 

“I don’t see a reason to change our philosophy and I think the buy-in from the players is pretty good and I think when we all buy into the same belief and the same philosophy, it’s a lot easier to make it work,” Baldwin said.

 

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