Two days before they leave for Taiwan, the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles visited the headquarters of Bounty Agro Ventures Incorporated in Ortigas Centre, Pasig City.
Thirdy Ravena, Isaac Go, Mike Nieto, Matt Nieto, Anton Asistio, Angelo Kouame, Jolo Mendoza, and team manager Epok Quimpo made a courtesy call to Bounty Agro Ventures Incorporated president Ronald Mascariñas.
The Blue Eagles are set to be the Philippines’ representatives in the pocket tournament that has been a tradition in Philippine basketball. The defending UAAP Men’s Basketball Champions are the first collegiate team to be sent over to the Jones Cup in the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas-era.
Going up against national teams and professional squads, Mascariñas is tempering his expectations for the young Blue Eagles.
“No doubt, it will be a tough campaign you as you will face players much, much older and more experienced,” the sports patron told the team. “But as what you’ve shown last year in the UAAP in stopping the unstoppable Ben Mbala, anything is possible with a good system and discipline.
“There are a lot of players more experienced than you who want to play in the Jones Cup. But even if you are the youngest team we ever sent, you earned this,” he furthered. “It is always a great honor to represent the country but it also carries a lot of responsibility. People will always judge us with the way we play basketball. But what is important is how we represent ourselves as Filipinos.”
This responsibility is something the Blue Eagles are taking to heart.
“Actually, nung nagsalita si Boss Ronald, kinabahan na ko e. Coming into the Jones Cup, ang target namin is to represent the university and the country well. Pero ang goal namin is to play to the best of our abilities,” said UAAP Season 80 Finals MVP Ravena.
“Hindi pa kami ganun kahanda pero yung goal namin is to improve as individuals. For me, bagong challenge itong Jones Cup. Dito namin makikita kung ganu kami ka-ready,” shared Matt Nieto.
“As for what everyone has said already, yes we are preparing for the UAAP. But it’s also a blessing for us to represent the country. It’s more than the honor, it’s also the responsibility. Rest assured that these guys are working hard with the goal of representing the country well,” expressed Quimpo.
“We are thankful to Ateneo and Chooks-to-Go. It’s always refreshing to find another company who shares the same passion to serve the country well,” he added.
With this, Mascariñas gave the Blue Eagles an important task.
“Come Saturday, you will no longer be representing Ateneo. Though you are not a national team, you will be the Philippine team. Hindi na kayo agila, kayo ay Manok ng Bayan na,” the sports patron declared.
“Boys, represent your country well. Do your best because all of us will be watching you. Laban Pilipinas! One Big Fight!”