A collegiate power here priming up to extend its UAAP reign, Ateneo flies out to the Land of the Rising Sun to slug it out with top-flight teams coming from all over the world.
Facing champion college programs from Australia and South Korea and a Division 1 team from the US NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) for the first time, the Blue Eagles will have their hands full in trying to retain their World University Basketball Series title that gets going on Thursday.
The Blue Eagles, who swept this tournament last year when it was only made up of four teams, will be clashing with University of Sydney on Aug. 11 with the winner keeping their title hopes alive and the loser relegated to the classification phase.
“I want as tough a competition as we can get,” coach Tab Baldwin said in an earlier interview. “We don’t know the caliber of the teams, but it seems on paper that the competition will be tougher.”
While most would see Ateneo as just trying to fine-tune its game for the UAAP that starts in less than two months, team manager Epok Quimpo said that the Eagles will be making the trip for another purpose.
“We will be going there to win, that’s for sure,” Quimpo said over the phone. “Everything the team does in the preseason is aimed at winning.”
Ateneo, which ruled the last UAAP season with a Game 3 win over the UP (University of the Philippines) Fighting Maroons, will be coming off victories over La Salle and San Beda in Davao over the weekend. The Eagles connected on 18 triples to trim the Green Archers before prevailing by seven over the Red Lions.
The Eagles are also slated to clash with the Under-21 team of Japan in a friendly on Wednesday to touch off what hopefully would be another unbeaten run to the title.
Joseph Obasa takes over from Ange Kouame in a one-and-done stint for the Eagles in Season 86. He was also there last year when Ateneo defeated Universitas Pelitas Harapan (125-39), Chengchi (88-78) and Tokai (68-59), with Kai Ballungay emerging as the tournament Most Valuable Player.
The Chengchi Griffins of Taipei will be back this year, Japan will be fielding two collegiate powers, Korea University will be there for the first time like the Lions of Sydney.
Perbanas Institute will represent Indonesia this time, while the Radford University Highlanders are the US entries. INQ
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