Ateneo set to defend World University Basketball Series title
MANILA, Philippines — The Ateneo Blue Eagles are out to defend their crown in the expanded World University Basketball Series from August 10 to 13 at Yoyogi National Gymnasium in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan.
Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin thinks the eight-team league gives the Blue Eagles an opportunity to improve their team ahead of their title-retention bid in the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament later this year.
“Well, as I say when people ask me about the UAAP crown, we are not really defending anything,” said Baldwin. “We have to go there for the dual purpose of playing our hearts out in representing the school and the country, but we also need to ensure the development of our team, system, and combinations for the UAAP.
“Anytime we are in the off-season, we also have that dual purpose, and it includes winning. We have to make it a habit, and it starts with the preseason,” he added.
When Ateneo ruled the tournament last year, it only battled three teams–Universitas Pelitas Harapan (125-39), Chengchi (88-78), and Tokai (68-59)–with Kai Ballungay emerging as the tournament MVP.
The field has now doubled with Japan’s Tokai University and Chinese Taipei’s National Chengchi University also returning to the competition along with USA’s Radford University (NCAA Division I), Japan’s Hakuoh University, Australia’s University of Sydney, Korea University, and Indonesia’s Perbanas Institute.
“I’m happy. I want as tough a competition as we can get. We don’t know the caliber of the teams, but it seems on paper that the competition will be tougher,” Baldwin said.
The Blue Eagles will also play an exhibition game on August 10 against a selection of players from the All Japan University Basketball Federation.
Ateneo will kick off its campaign on August 11, taking on University of Sydney with the winner advancing to play against either Perbanas Institute or Hakuoh University. Radford will play against Korea U in the first round, while Tokai will face Chengchi.
The losing teams will move on to the classification phase.
“We are going there to win and gain experience for the UAAP season,” said Baldwin said.
The Japan invitational tournament was part of Ateneo’s build-up when it reclaimed the title against University of the Philippines, dominating in a do-or-die Game 3 of the UAAP Season 85 Finals.
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