Ateneo de Manila University took the unorthodox road in its build-up for its redemption campaign in the UAAP.
After not being able to field a complete roster for the 2022 Filoil EcoOil Preseason Cup that resulted in their pullout, the Blue Eagles will instead have a series of overseas camps.
And the first stop was in Tokyo, Japan for the 2022 World University Basketball Series.
“We had a team that can win this tournament but I think you got to give a lot of credit to the players. They just played very, very tough,” Baldwin said after the three-day meet that saw the Blue Eagles sweep the tournament.
“It wasn’t always pretty, there were a lot of weaknesses there but you know, at the end of the day, I think our toughness was the deciding factor.”
The first game was a breeze as Ateneo romped Indonesia’s Universitas Pelita Harapan, 125-39.
The games though against Chinese Taipei’s National Chengchi University and Japan’s Tokai University were particularly tough.
In both games, the Blue Eagles needed fourth-quarter surges to defeat the Griffins and the Seagulls.
Though the games were filled with flaws, Baldwin stressed that they got what they wanted.
The first is to develop camaraderie among the new-look Blue Eagles. They were able to integrate new boys like Kai Ballungay, Paul Garcia, Andrew Bongo, and their reserves into the team.
More importantly, they were able to form the foundation for building a winning culture.
“We came to here to grow as a team and winning is part of it, to build a winning culture.
“This is a very new team for Ateneo. We had a very consistent roster for the last seven years and you know, we have a big turnover in personnel this year,” said Baldwin as they lose the likes of SJ Belangel, Gian Mamuyac, Tyler Tio, Raffy Verano, Jolo Mendoza, and Troy Mallillin. “Obviously, learning to play together, learning to get better as a team, and also developing a winning culture is extremely important. You can’t do that if you lose and obviously if we had lost, we would de-emphasize that.
“At this point, this really helps us understand what it takes to win. I think that’s the most beneficial thing that we had and just the time together. You know, the time away from home and family and bonding as a team is very important,” the former Gilas and Tall Blacks head coach furthered.
Baldwin emphasized that this is just the start of their long buildup for the UAAP.
Up next for Ateneo is setting up camp in Israel.
And he expects the games there to be much, much tougher.
“We have the weekend off and then it’s back in the gym, back to practice, and building up for the October start of the UAAP. It’s going to be exceptionally tough. We have an awful lot of work to do,” he said.
“We’re really not a very strong basketball team right now but that’s okay and we kind of expect that. But it’s not okay to stay that way so a lot of work.”