MANILA, Philippines —As one of the Ateneo holdovers who experienced a heartbreaking Finals loss to University of the Philippines last May, BJ Andrade doesn’t want to go through the same pain for the Blue Eagles this UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament.
The new Ateneo team captain said his squad, which will feature new players like Kai Ballungay and Paul Garcia, is eager to bounce back after a shattered ‘four-peat’ bid in the previous season.
“Yun pa rin ang motivation namin kasi ang dami rin naming players na naiwan from last year so alam nila yung sakit na naramdaman namin from last season,” Andrade told the reporters. “Ang goal namin ngayon na imbes na iiyak kami sa locker room, this year mag-enjoy naman kami. Tears of joy.”
(We are motivated (to redeem ourselves) because most of our players really felt the pain from last season. Our goal is not to cry in the locker room. We will enjoy this year. Tears of joy.)
Andrade is leading a young team with reigning MVP Ange Kouame, Dave Ildefonso, Geo Chiu, and Forthsky Padrigao as several players Gian Mamuyac, Tyler Tio, and Raffy Verano as well as Korean Basketball League import SJ Belangel have already parted ways after Season 84.
“We all know that this season is gonna be a challenge for us because we have a lot of new players and the other teams had beefed up their rosters,” said Andrade in Filipino. “What you can expect from us this season is we’ll play our games to the best of our ability.”
Andrade, who averaged 5.57 points, 1.93 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game as a starter last season, admitted the Blue Eagles are still adjusting with their revamped roster, but he sees a lot of potential from his young teammates, led by Ballungay and Garcia.
“Our new players are still adjusting to the system and coaching style of coach Tab. But I think, it’s not gonna be a problem because we’re working on it and we’re progressing well,” he said. “The new players have great potential, especially in defense. I think the new players have learned our defensive (system).”
Andrade also made adjustments in embracing his new role as a skipper.
“I had to adjust. I talked to coach Tab on how to lead and thankfully, he gave me a lot of tips and pointers on how to lead, which works for our team,” he said.
Ateneo begins its title-redemption campaign against Far Eastern University on Sunday at Mall of Asia Arena.
“Each game is important because we won’t reach our goal if we won’t focus on the game in front of us. One game at a time mentality and we will give our all,” said the Blue Eagles skipper.
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