Joseph Obasa ‘the perfect teammate,’ says Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin

Ateneo Joseph Obasa.

Ateneo Blue Eagles’ Joseph Obasa.

TOKYO—There’s an eagerness one can see in Joseph Obasa every time he plays. That’s understandable, since he has just a UAAP season to play for Ateneo.

An incoming rookie at 24 years old, the 6-foot-10 center is making the most out of any kind of playing time he gets—be that in practice or an exhibition game Thursday night against a Japanese Under-21 selection at Yoyogi Stadium here.

Obasa was on the floor for almost 24 minutes, shooting 17 points, grabbing 15 rebounds that went with three blocks as he helped the Blue Eagles score a 70-69 decision while the team’s big guns were given the day by coach Tab Baldwin.

“I love it,” Obasa said as he was asked by Filipino fans to come to the stands immediately after the game to pose for photographs and sign autographs. “I can’t wait (for the UAAP season), and I am very grateful for the support the team is getting.”

Ateneo had the game in control early, only to trail by as many as three several times. Obasa, who is taking up masteral studies in Loyola to be eligible for the season, slipped in one play and landed on his right wrist.

He favored that for a few seconds but never gave Baldwin any indication that we wanted to step out.

He then scored on two straight short stabs that kept the Blue Eagles’ collective heads above water, before he played out the critical parts of the fourth period that had Ateneo pulling out the win despite going scoreless in the final 52.1 seconds.

“He’s still learning,” Baldwin said of Obasa, a finely-built specimen who will shoulder a lot of the load at the slot for the Blue Eagles after Ange Kouame graduated just last month.

“He’s such a good guy, the perfect teammate,” Baldwin said.

Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin after the Blue Eagles’ 70-69 win over an Under-21 selection from Japan in Tokyo ahead of their World University Basketball Series title defense. | Musong Castillo/INQUIRER Sports

Posted by Inquirer Sports on Thursday, August 10, 2023

Shawn Tuano, a shifty big guard who is also a rookie, scored 12 points, with Lebron Nieto the third player to finish in twin digits for the Blue Eagles, who were dragged to the veritable limit by the Japanese.

“That’s the kind of (game) our team needs,” Baldwin said of the escape as he played minus four of his battle-scarred veterans. “They (Japanese) are aggressive, very tough. We needed a game like that.”

The Blue Eagles will open defense of their World University Basketball Series title Friday against Australian champion University of Sydney at 6:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m. in Manila), and Baldwin will, with Ateneo out to win for the second straight year, utilize his full roster.

“We will try to,” Baldwin said when asked if Kai Ballungay, Chris Koon, Gab Gomez and Geo Chiu will be suiting up. “We will try to see how the tournament plays out. We’ll see how the players play and see how the competition plays out.”

Without Baldwin saying so, Obasa will again be there.

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