February 21, 2024

School spirit: Ateneo starting five among active players in PBA

School spirit: Ateneo starting five among active players in PBA
Art by Royce Nicdao

The opening ceremony of PBA Season 48 was a reunion of sorts after the long break.

It saw the celebration for the PBA core of Gilas Pilipinas after the FIBA World Cup and the Asian Games.

It was also a chance for players to get together for school pride. Case in point, the former players of the Ateneo Blue Eagles.


So what would a PBA starting five look like if it were made up of active players from the Blue Eagles?

Check out similar scenarios for the Adamson Soaring Falcons and the UST Growling Tigers.

Juami Tiongson (Season 72 to Season 76)


 The 2021 PBA Most Improved Player has been the main driver for the Terrafirma Dyip, and we sincerely hope he stays that way. 


 In the previous PBA Governors' Cup, Tiongson averaged 23.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.5 steals. 


 The four-time UAAP champion has already started strong for Terrafirma in this PBA Commissioner's Cup, racking up 21 points in his first outing.


 The question is, can Thomas de Baey and the Dyip's new blood help Tiongson in picking up wins?


 Tyler Tio (Season 80 to Season 84)


 This guard is no stranger to winning championships, picking up three UAAP titles under coach Tab Baldwin. But it's an uphill battle this time in the PBA with the young Phoenix Fuel Masters.


 In the last PBA Governors' Cup, he averaged 10.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 3.3 assists. He's already making a similar production this conference, with averages of 10.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.0 steals in two games.


 But can he grow into his own and become a leader for Phoenix?


 Chris Newsome (Season 76 to Season 77)


 The Meralco Bolts leader is a shoo-in when it comes to this list, especially after his gold medal stint in the Asian Games with Gilas Pilipinas.


 Newsome had a short stint in the UAAP but made it to the Mythical Five in Season 77.


 In the previous PBA season, Newsome had his best performance during the Philippine Cup with norms of 16.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.1 assists.


 In this PBA Commissioner's Cup, he's already providing 13.5 points in two games, along with 5.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.5 steals.


 Arvin Tolentino (Season 77 to Season 78)


 He was hailed Rookie of the Year in UAAP Season 77 but saw limited minutes afterward and struggled academically in Ateneo before transferring to the FEU Tamaraws. 


 Fast forward to 2023, Tolentino is now an Asian Games gold medalist for Gilas Pilipinas and a rising star of the NorthPort Batang Pier. He was also named PBA Player of the Week after leading NorthPort to back-to-back wins at the start of the PBA Commissioner's Cup.


 The 28-year-old wingman, playing in his fourth year in the PBA, also reset his career-high by notching 35 points in their win over the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters last Sunday.


RELATED STORY: What Gabe Norwood said to Arvin Tolentino after NorthPort star dunked on him 


 Things are definitely looking bright for Tolentino, who was named to the Mythical Second Team last season. 


 Japeth Aguilar (Season 67 to Season 68)


 Aguilar was explosive for the Blue Eagles in his short stint, as he reigned over the basket with his athleticism and leaping ability before transferring to Western Kentucky in the United States.


 In the PBA, he needs no further introduction with eight championships and the 2019 PBA Governors' Cup Finals MVP to his name.


 Where's LA Tenorio and the rest of the BEBOB boys?


 Tenorio would have no doubt been a part of the starting five, given that he's an active player. But in this fantasy scenario, we're acknowledging that Tinyente is still getting back into shape after his battle with colon cancer.


RELATED STORY: LA Tenorio goes 'back to basics' in imminent return to PBA action for Ginebra


 There are also plenty of young Blue Eagles in the PBA, most notably Aaron Black of the Meralco Bolts and Gian Mamuyac of Rain or Shine. But for now, we'll consider them as reserves.


 Breaking down the team


 Ateneo players work best under a system, so it's easy to see why there are no outright go-to-guys among these former Blue Eagles, except, of course, for Tenorio. 


 They, however, sure know their defense—coaches Norman Black and Tab Baldwin made sure of that. Plus, role players know their assignments pretty well, which is a significant factor in a winning team.


 This squad is a balanced one, especially on the wing. There aren't many holes on both ends of the floor either, with Newsome and Aguilar anchoring the defense, Tiongson and Tolentino providing the buckets, and Tio making high IQ plays.